396.1–GE/2–2554: Telegram

The Ambassador in Korea (Briggs) to the Department of State


834. Repeated information Tokyo 511 (pass CINCUNC), London unnumbered, Paris 6, Taipei 86, Saigon 19, Moscow 6. On receipt this afternoon of Deptel 694, February 24 I called on Foreign Minister Pyun to give him copy of official invitation to Geneva conference original of which handed Ambassador Yang in Washington yesterday. Pyun said Yang’s report not yet received. After reading invitation he asked whether I had information responsive to four points raised by ROK Government (Embtel 824, February 23).1

I thereupon gave Pyun orally following information regarding which he took notes:

Conference will be of participating powers under sponsorship of four countries meeting at Berlin. In context Panmunjom talks, it [Page 23]will not be “two-sided” conference but as practical matter it will probably develop two-sided aspect as meeting between non-Communist side and Communist side. In that connection I emphasized participants would not include neutrals, thus meeting Korean views re composition.
Status of Soviet Russia. I said Russia was sponsoring power and as such had responsibility with other sponsors for the meeting. That is, full participation, and would be party to any conference agreement. Question whether Russia “neutral” (as Communists had demanded at Panmunjom) or “belligerents” (as our side had desired) is by-passed by Russia being responsible sponsoring participant.
I assured Pyun ROK could not be committed to conference proposal which ROK opposed. I pointed out this point, substantively, is by far most important point his government had raised since it involved sovereign right of any country to declare what it would or would not accept.
As to scope of conference I informed Pyun, as set forth Deptel 694, that conferences on Indochina and Korea were separate with different compositions, but might take place simultaneously.

There ensued considerable discussion of foregoing, especially points one, two and four. One and two disclosed few new ideas (Foreign Minister did not like our answers) but Pyun’s comments concerning simultaneous discussion of Indochina problem seem worth noting since he declared that this would give Red China “incalculable advantage, probably amounting to control of proceedings”. He amplified this by stating that as soon as Korean discussions bogged down because of inacceptable Communist demands, conference would in effect adjourn consideration of Korea and take up Indochina, which would then be discussed at great length while ROK representatives and other participating countries primarily interested in settlement of Korean problem as prerequisite to settlement other matters, cooled their heels and were kept dangling. But since Red China involved in both Korean and Indochina discussion, that would give Communist China de facto control of proceedings. One of “less serious” results of this “capitulation” by three Western powers at Berlin was vastly to increase Red China’s stature, no matter what sort of disclaimers we might make about recognition. What you have done in effect, said Pyun, is to accept five power conference on Asian (as distinct from Korean) agenda, and have given Red China controlling voice in proceedings. Your plan for “simultaneous discussion” is really agreement to “alternate discussion”, which will allow Communists to sidetrack Korea while they make propaganda indefinitely, on their terms, over SEA.

Pyun then declared ROK Government would now have to consider whether in light of understanding implications of Geneva conference, his Government would find it possible to attend.

[Page 24]

I replied that decision obviously one which must be taken by Korea in its capacity as sovereign state. Nevertheless as friend of Korea I hoped President Rhee and he would take into consideration fact that announcement of Geneva conference, in circumstances I had described, was being hailed in countries most friendly to Korea, and allied with ROK through 37 months of joint war effort, as important step on road toward Korean unification to which all of us had pledged our best efforts. I said I hoped decision of ROK Government at this important crossroads would strengthen Korea in eyes of her friends.

  1. The text of this message read as follows:

    “At his regular weekly press conference this morning Foreign Minister Pyun declared ROK government decision re participation in Geneva conference cannot be made until it receives satisfactory clarification on following four points:

    Conference should be between two sides,
    USSR should participate on Communist side,
    Freedom of independent decision by nations participating in conference should be assured, and
    Conference should discuss only Korean problem and not Indochina.

    Pyun added he had not received adequate information on these points in his talk with Young and me.” (396.1/2–2354)