S/SNSC files, lot 63 D 351, NSC 170 Series

Memorandum by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Department of State to the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council (Lay)1

top secret

Subject:

  • Analysis of Possible Courses of Action in Korea

Reference:

  • NSC Action 972b3
1.
If the Communists renew hostilities in Korea in the near future, the United States military objectives should be to:
a.
Destroy effective Chinese Communist military power applied to the Korean effort.
b.
Reduce Chinese Communist military capability for further aggression in the Korean area.
c.
Create conditions under which ROK forces can assume increasing responsibility for the defense of Korea.
2.
In pursuit of these objectives in the event of Communist renewal of hostilities, the following military courses of action should be undertaken:
a.
Employing atomic weapons, conduct offensive air operations against military targets in Korea, and against those military targets in Manchuria and China which are being used by the Communists in direct support of their operations in Korea, or which threaten the security of US/UN forces in the Korean area.
b.
Simultaneously, exploit as practicable such successes as may be gained as a result of action outlined in a above, by coordinated ground, naval and air action to destroy enemy forces in Korea.
c.
In light of the circumstances prevailing at the time, and subject to an evaluation of the results of operations conducted under a and b, be prepared to take further action against Communist China to reduce its war-making capability in the Korean area, such as:
(1)
Blockade of China coast.
(2)
Seizure of Hainan and other off-shore islands.
(3)
Raids on the China mainland by Chinese Nationalist forces.
d.
Immediately consider what further military build-up is then required to meet the resulting contingencies in Korea or elsewhere.
3.
In the event of Communist renewal of hostilities in Korea, the United States should immediately seek to secure UN and general international [Page 1701]support for the military courses of action stated in paragraphs 2a and b above. To this end, the United States should seek to:
a.
Clearly demonstrate Communist responsibility for the renewal of hostilities, and in particular facilitate reports on Communist actions by representatives in Korea of the non-Soviet neutral powers and UN agencies;
b.
Secure UN action reiterating condemnation of Communist aggression, endorsing continuation of the UNC effort under United States leadership, and calling on all member States for increased assistance to the UNC;
c.
Secure immediate implementation of the sixteen-power Joint Declaration, and contribution of forces and other assistance to the Korean effort by other nations.
4.
If, after evaluation of the results of operations conducted under paragraphs 2a and b it was decided that the U.S. should embark upon the courses of action stated in paragraph 2c, the United States should then attempt to secure UN and general international support for such military courses of action.
5.
In the event of Communist renewal of hostilities, Soviet reactions to U.S. countermeasures would be importantly influenced by Soviet estimates of U.S. objectives.
a.
If the Soviets were convinced that U.S. objectives were limited to those stated in paragraph 1, it is estimated that they would:
(1)
Undoubtedly participate on a large scale, although probably not openly, in the air defense of North Korea, Manchuria and China;
(2)
Increase assistance to Chinese Communist and North Korean forces in equipment, advisers, and technicians;
(3)
Assist the Chinese Communist and Korean air forces, and might participate with Soviet forces, in offensive air action against US/UN bases in Korea;
(4)
Probably not initiate Soviet offensive action against U.S. bases in Japan and Okinawa or seek to broaden the war.
b.
If the Communists believed that the United States military objectives went beyond those stated in paragraph 1, the Soviet reaction would be likely to be more extensive and might well involve overt Soviet participation.
c.
If the U.S. undertook the courses of action stated in paragraphs 2a and b above, and the blockade of the China coast referred to in paragraph 2c(l), and if in implementing these actions the U.S. limited air attacks to targets connected directly with and in the vicinity of the Korean operations and avoided air attacks on Port Arthur and Dairen, the Soviet Union might be satisfied that U.S. objectives were limited to those stated in paragraph 1. Massive U.S. air attacks on numerous targets in China Proper, large scale landings on the China mainland, or possibly the seizure of Hainan, would stimulate Communist belief that the U.S. had objectives going beyond those stated in paragraph 1, and that the U.S. in fact intended to bring about the complete overthrow of the Peiping regime.
6.

a. Free World reaction to U.S. countermeasures would depend upon the degree to which the other nations were convinced—

(1)
That the Communists were responsible for the renewal of hostilities;
(2)
That U.S. military objectives were limited; and
(3)
That U.S. countermeasures would not stimulate either overt Soviet participation in the Korean hostilities or Soviet aggression in Europe.

b. If the U.S. clearly demonstrated Communist responsibility for the renewal of hostilities, undertook the courses of action stated in paragraphs 2a and b, and in implementing these courses of action limited attacks to targets directly connected with and in the vicinity of the Korean operations and avoided air attacks on Port Arthur or Dairen, it is probable that the other Free World nations could be convinced that U.S. objectives were limited to those stated in paragraph 1. In this case it is estimated that:

(1)
The Allies of the United States in the Korean action would probably honor their commitments under the sixteen-power Joint Declaration, and would provide political and some material support for United States courses of action.
(2)
A majority of the UN would probably give UN sanction to United States courses of action.
(3)
Friendly powers outside of the UN, such as Japan, would support United States efforts.

c. It is possible that blockade of the China coast would not seriously affect the conviction of our Allies that U.S. military objectives were limited to those stated in paragraph 1.

d. Massive U.S. air attacks on numerous targets in China Proper, large scale landings on the China mainland, or the seizure of Hainan would probably lead our Allies to believe that the U.S. was intent upon the complete overthrow of the Peiping regime, and that accordingly there was acute danger of overt Soviet participation in the hostilities or of Soviet aggression in Europe. In this case it would be difficult to secure UN or Allied support of U.S. courses of action and the cohesion of United States alliances would be seriously weakened.

7.
In undertaking the actions stated in paragraphs 2a and b, and in making decisions about undertaking the actions stated in paragraph 2c, the United States should pay due regard to the desirability of minimizing the risks of overt Soviet intervention in the Korean hostilities and of maximizing the possibilities of securing UN and Allied support for U.S. courses of action. In the last analysis, however, the U.S. should undertake the military courses of action stated in paragraph 2 which prove necessary to achieve the objectives outlined in paragraph 1, with such Allied support as it may be possible to mobilize.
8.
Approval of the courses of action set out in this paper is based on the estimates of the reactions of the Soviet Union and the Free World contained in paragraphs 5 and 6. Since conditions may change with the passage of time, these estimates and the planned courses of action should be reviewed periodically by the National Security Council. For the same reason, the planned courses of action should be put into effect only with the specific approval of the President at the time of any Communist renewal of hostilities. [Nothing in the above is intended to restrict in any way the authority of the U.S. Commander in Chief, F.E., to take whatever action is necessary to insure the safety of his forces.]4
  1. As requested in NSC Action No. 972-b, Dec. 3, 1953, the Department of State and the Joint Chiefs of Staff jointly prepared this restatement of the initial military objectives and courses of action in the event the Communists renewed hostilities in Korea. For a text of the portion prepared by the JCS before coordination with the Department, see the attachment to the letter from Wilson to Dulles, Dec. 23, 1953, p. 1674.
  2. The source text did not indicate a drafter or a date; since the statement was still being discussed on the morning of Jan. 7 (see memorandum by Bowie, infra), the editors have given it that date.
  3. For text, see the memorandum of discussion at the 173d meeting of the NSC, Dec. 3, 1953, p. 1636.
  4. Brackets in the source text. The following note appeared at the end of the source text: “Defense’s suggestion is bracketed.”