Memorandum of Conversation, by Elizabeth A. Brown of the Office of United Nations Political and Security Affairs



  • Korean Briefing Meeting, December 21, 1953.
[Page 1667]
Participants: Australia Mr. Tange, Minister
Mr. Allen, Second Secretary
Belgium Mr. Carlier, Minister
Canada Ambassador Heeney
Mr. Campbell, Second Secretary
Colombia Ambassador Zuleta Angel
Mr. Chaves
Ethiopia Mr. Tesemma, First Secretary
France Ambassador Bonnet
Mr. Millet, Counselor
Great Britain Mr. Scott, Minister
Mr. Tomlinson, Counselor
Mr. Troy
Greece Ambassador Politis
Mr. Cavalierato, Counselor
Korea Ambassador Yang
Mr. Han, First Secretary
Netherlands Ambassador van Roijen
Mr. van Boetzelaer, Second Secretary
New Zealand Ambassador Munro
Mr. Laking, Counselor
Mr. Wade, First Secretary
Philippines Mr. Abello, Minister Plenipotentiary
Mr. Albert, Attaché
Thailand Ambassador Sarasin
Mr. Snidvengs, Second Secretary
Luxembourg Mr. Le Gallais
Turkey Mr. Nuza, Counselor
South Africa Mr. Jarvie, Counselor
Mr. Botha, Second Secretary
United States Mr. Dean, S
Mr. Murphy, G
Mr. Key, UNA
Mr. Drumright, FE
Mr. Braggiotti, USUN
Mr. Wainhouse, UNP
Mr. Popper, UNP
Mr. DePalma, UNP
Miss Brown, UNP
Mr. Sisco, UNA
Mr. Sneider, UNA
Mr. Allen, EUR
Mr. Phillips, UNA
Mr. Jones, NA
Mr. Treumann, NA

Ambassador Dean stated he had found the negotiations with the Communists at Panmunjom stimulating and challenging. He explained that the talks took place in a hut astride the demilitarized zone, with the line actually going through the middle of the conference table. Noting that the Chinese obviously ran the negotiations from the very outset, Ambassador Dean said that every statement made by the North Korean spokesman, Ki Sok Bok, was written out in advance by the Chinese representative, Huang Hua, and passed to the former; the two never spoke to each other in the conference hut. As for the tone of the sessions, he noted that each morning he and the North Korean bowed to each other, but the Chinese representative did all he could to ignore the fact that the United Nations representatives were even physically present. There were about thirty people in the Communist delegation. Observing that the Communists began almost every meeting with a series of personal attacks on him, calling him thief, liar, crook, warmonger [Page 1668] and the like, Ambassador Dean said that he had decided at the outset not to reply to any such personal attacks.

On the substance of the negotiations Ambassador Dean pointed out that agreement had been reached on a good many procedural issues. He expressed the personal opinion that if our side was willing to withdraw the requirement that the USSR attend the political conference, the Communists would drop their proposal that the USSR should be there as a neutral, in which case they would probably agree to have only Pakistan and India present as non-voting observers. He said that, for some reason or another, the Communists definitely did not want either Sweden or Switzerland; they appeared to want to limit the neutrals to Asian states.

With respect to the question of the site of the political conference, Ambassador Dean thought that the Communists, having dropped Panmunjom, would be prepared to accept a site such as Colombo, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, or Beirut.

Turning to the Communist position on the time of the political conference, he reported that Huang had told Haksar, Indian Minister to London, now in Korea, that the Communists came to Panmunjom prepared to keep Ambassador Dean in preliminary talks well into next May. In this connection, Mr. Dean noted that the Communists were currently spending enormous amounts of money in civilian rehabilitation in North Korea. They were also building a huge system of tunnels through the mountains, by which they could transport men and materials, and heavy concrete bunkers, thus showing that they apparently expect to remain in their present positions for some time. It was also reported that there were big posters throughout North Korea, all on the peace theme, happy children returning to school in peace, etc. Ambassador Dean expressed the belief that, while the Communists were engaged in consolidating their present positions, they had no real desire or intention of resuming hostilities. He noted also the increasing integration of the North Korean economy with that of China. There were reports that North Korean officials had almost disappeared. He thought that the Communists were hoping to keep us talking until next May, by which time they would have their civilian economy going again and their military position so completely strengthened that they would not be interested in resuming hostilities. Ambassador Dean also referred to the recent economic agreement between North Korea and Communist China and an agreement just announced with the Eastern European satellites for substantial amounts of aid and technical assistance. He expressed the view that the Communists want the political conference, but at the same time he cautioned that when they get to the conference, they might say that what is meant by a free, united, independent and democratic Korea is the integration of the ROK into North Korea. They might insist that, after the Chinese Communist forces withdraw, [Page 1669] having first turned over all their equipment to the North Koreans, the United Nations forces must also get out, leaving the settlement to the Koreans themselves.

Ambassador Dean observed that the two sides were not too far apart on the question of the actual role of the neutrals, leaving aside the question of what neutrals were to attend. For example, it was agreed that the agenda would be made up by the two voting sides, that speeches were to be scheduled by arrangement between the two sides, and that the two sides were each to vote as a unit. However, there was a difference in the voting procedures. The Communist position was that no proposal could be submitted to the vote unless every state present was prepared to have it put to the vote; under our proposal each side voted as a unit in accordance with the General Assembly’s resolution, but any state could announce that it did not want to be bound by a particular decision. On this point, Ambassador Dean said he had emphasized to the Communists that our side would be composed of seventeen free nations and that what mattered was that those states essential to the implementation of a particular decision should vote for it because otherwise it would never be carried out.

Ambassador Dean told the group that he had seen President Rhee on the average of four to five afternoons a week, sometimes individually and sometimes with his entire Cabinet. As a result of these consultations, Ambassador Dean expressed the opinion that, so far as the question of including neutrals was concerned, there were no fundamental differences between President Rhee and himself that could not have been worked out, provided, of course, that the Communists withdrew their demand for the inclusion of the USSR as a neutral.

Mr. Dean said he thought the Communists were bitterly disappointed in our oral proposal of November 28, in which the suggestion for an alphabetical list of participants was presented. Recalling that he had submitted our proposal in writing on December 8 and had previously given the Communists a list of fourteen procedural matters on which agreement had been reached, he commented that he did not think the Communists honestly wanted that much progress so early in the negotiations. He repeated that he thought they wanted a political conference but at the same time they wanted the preliminary talks to continue well into the spring. He ventured the opinion that this was one reason why Huang had brought in the written statements which the Communists presented at the December 12 meeting. At that meeting his remarks had become progressively ruder and ruder. Mr. Dean said that when he had proposed at two o’clock that the meeting recess, Huang had countered that he (Dean) was not going to leave until he (Huang) was ready, and only then and not before. Huang then returned to a series of questions related to our proposal on voting procedure. Ambassador Dean said he again proposed a recess at three o’clock but without success. (In the [Page 1670] course of the meeting he made a total of five such proposals for recess.) After that Huang launched into his charges concerning violation of the Armistice Agreement. His first charge was directed at the ROK, but Mr. Dean said he immediately pointed out that the ROK had not signed the agreement on prisoners of war. Huang next said that General Harrison knew, when he signed the prisoner agreement on June 9, that the ROK was going to release the prisoners. This Dean denied. Then Huang charged the ROK with perfidy. Mr. Dean said he again proposed a recess, debating then in his own mind whether he should walk out. Huang repeated the charge of perfidy, to which Dean countered it was incorrect. Huang said he was bringing up this matter to show that our side was not dealing in good faith and could be expected to do the same thing in these negotiations, particularly on voting procedure; he then charged the United States Government with perfidy. Dean proposed an indefinite recess, at which Huang repeated the charge of perfidy and said he agreed to the recess. Ambassador Dean explained that if he had agreed to the recess on this basis, he knew the Peiping radio would say we admitted the charge of perfidy. It therefore seemed to him on balance that we would have been put in an impossible situation if we accepted the motion for a recess linked with the charge of perfidy. For this reason he decided to walk out. Early on the following Monday morning, before 5:00 AM, he had been advised that the Communist negotiators had left a note for him at Panmunjom. This note asked that the negotiations be renewed but repeated the charge of perfidy. In reply, Ambassador Dean said that he would not resume unless the Communists retracted this charge, expunged the exchange on this subject from the record, or otherwise corrected the record in a manner satisfactory to the United States. In this connection, Ambassador Dean said he had told the Indian representative he would accept the physical expunging of both his remarks and those of Huang from the record.

Turning to another matter, Mr. Dean said he had discussed the time schedule for the release of prisoners with General Thimayya. He expressed his tremendous admiration for the General and his associates. He thought the Indian troops, under great provocation, were doing a most amazing job in extremely difficult circumstances. He believed the Indians would definitely withdraw on January 22, although General Thimayya would stay on in his capacity as chairman of the NNRC for an additional thirty days to aid the prisoners in their return to civilian life.

He pointed out that the Communists had done everything that they could do to wreck the explanations. For example, they would call General Thimayya at midnight to make arrangements for explanations to a certain compound, then, an hour later, they would call to cancel them, the next hour to set them up again, and so on throughout the night. He said that while General Thimayya had gone to Korea believing that the [Page 1671] non-repatriated prisoners had been intimidated, he was now by and large convinced that this was not the case.

Ambassador Dean again repeated that he thought the Communists were bitterly disappointed when we worked out a role for neutrals at the conference, an issue he believed they were using in the hope that it would divide India, the United States and the British Commonwealth states. He also thought it was possible that the Communists wanted to have the political conference in session so that they could take an appeal to it from anything General Thimayya might decide in his role as umpire. It was his opinion that the Communists would try to interpret the 90-day explanation period, not on a calendar basis, but counting only the actual hours spent in explanation, so the period would run until there had been a total of 720 hours spent in explanations to prisoners.

Ambassador Dean reported that General Thimayya knew that if there were the slightest extension beyond January 22 in holding the prisoners, they would rush the gates and the Indians would have to decide whether to fire upon them in an effort to restrain the break-out. He said he had personally told the General that if his troops fired upon prisoners after January 22, it would be murder, since after that date the Indian forces had no legal right to remain in Korea, and for that matter we had no obligation to give the Indian forces logistic support. However, Mr. Dean thought it was clear that the Indian troops would depart on the night of January 22, at which time the prisoners would revert to civilian status; otherwise there would be bloodshed.

Ambassador Dean was confident that the Communists would resume the preliminary talks, which they wanted for their own purposes. He was fairly sure, however, that they would wait a couple of weeks to make any move. He repeated that he thought we could have the political conference if we would withdraw our proposal to include the USSR, in which case they would probably withdraw their requirement that the USSR should attend only as a neutral. In short, he did not think it was impossible to arrange the political conference.

Ambassador Bonnet inquired what would happen if a note is received from the Communists indicating their readiness to resume the talks. Mr. Dean replied that Mr. Young will be there, adding that he had requested him to remain in Korea and by a note had informed the Communists of his availability. Mr. Young planned to stay in Korea at least another week or so, but whether he would remain indefinitely was another matter. If he returned, however, arrangements could be made by which the Communists could get in touch with our side in some other way. Mr. Dean added that he has also informed the Communists that he would return to Korea, if necessary.

[Page 1672]

In response to an inquiry from Ambassador Munro, Mr. Dean said that resumption would depend upon dealing with the charge of perfidy in one of the three ways already proposed to the Communists.

Mr. Scott expressed his gratitude for Ambassador Dean’s report and his appreciation for what he had done in Korea. Ambassador Heeney associated himself with these remarks; while there was no time for further questions at this meeting, he expressed the hope that some of the points that Ambassador Dean had mentioned might be further developed in individual conversations in the Department. He added that in his view Mr. Dean had shown the greatest patience, courage and forbearance in his negotiations with the Communists.

Ambassador Dean said he wanted all those present to understand that he did not want to walk out of the negotiations. It had taken him an hour and a half to come to the conclusion that it was the only thing that he could do in the particular circumstances, it being perfectly obvious that the Communist objective was to embarrass us.

Ambassador Heeney asked whether it was Mr. Dean’s opinion that this was not going to prevent the Communists from making a move for renewal of the negotiations and whether sufficient leeway had been left to make resumption possible. Ambassador Dean referred to a conversation he had had with General Thimayya in which he had made plain we were prepared to dispose of this issue of the charges in any reasonable way, and the General had said that he would see what he could do in informal conversations with the Communists.

Ambassador Dean then mentioned another matter which he said was pure surmise on his part but stemned in part from conversations which Huang, the Chinese representative had with the Indians. From questions Huang had asked General Thimayya, Mr. Dean felt that the Chinese view was that the Korean question was primarily a Chinese problem which did not concern the USSR. The Chinese apparently did not understand why we in effect wanted to insult them by not accepting them as the “number one” spokesman, and why their signature alone on any Korean agreement was not enough. Mr. Dean said he rather got the feeling that while Communism is Communism and Mao Tse-tung and Malenkov were in close relationship, nevertheless the Korean question was the particular baby of the Chinese. Ambassador Politis said he thought Ambassador Dean’s view on this point was quite right. Mr. Dean noted that he did not intend to imply that there was any divergence between the USSR and Communist China but simply that Mao feels he is top man in this situation, and does not wish to be put in an inferior position.

Along the same lines, Ambassador Dean said that, in discussing the inclusion of the USSR in the political conference, he had argued that we wanted to see her there, to perform the obligations toward Korea already undertaken at Cairo, Potsdam and Moscow. He had also asked [Page 1673] why we should object to the USSR when we accept two of its agents. The Communist representatives had obviously been outraged by this remark and had called it slander. He had simply replied that he had noted the statement that it is slanderous to be an agent of the USSR.

Mr. Tange summed up the foregoing as meaning that the Communists want us to drop the proposal for including the USSR at the conference in any capacity. Mr. Le Gallais asked whether this would be consistent with the action taken by the United Nations. Ambassador Dean replied that the USSR’s inclusion was not required by the terms of the Assembly’s resolution, which he then reviewed.

Ambassador Munro inquired what those present should say to the press after the meeting; he assumed there should be no statement by anyone. It was agreed that the press should simply be told that Ambassador Dean had given a detailed report on his negotiations and that nothing had been decided.

Ambassador Bonnet asked whether if the Communists proposed that the USSR be dropped from the conference the group would be consulted. Mr. Murphy assured him that it would. He added that the Communists might wait for such a proposal to come from our side. Ambassador Bonnet suggested that we might, in fact, try to provoke it.