795.00/5–354: Telegram

The Ambassador in Korea (Briggs) to the United States Delegation


38. Sent Department 1105, repeated information Tokyo 650. For Secretary from Dean. Ambassadors Briggs and Dean saw President Rhee, Acting Foreign Minister Cho, hour and three-fourths session this morning. Reviewed Geneva’s 17,1 18,2 22,3 24,4 and 25.5 Explained that you wanted to negotiate within sovereignty constitutional structure and authority of present ROK Government and that you wanted to do everything possible to uphold its prestige, but that it was imperative and essential that present ROK Government should stand before bar of world opinion as an unquestioned constitutional form of government in which elections were freely held in accordance with democratic processes, in which candidates could file their petitions and persons could vote without threats or initimidation. Ventured to suggest possible that President might wish to consider inviting present members of UNCURK to review procedures and methods in forthcoming May 20 elections. Explained that this was primarily domestic [Page 192] question for his determination on which we technically had no right to make suggestions, but since we were supporting ROK Government in every way we could, wanted to make suggestion purely on a friendly basis in order that ROK might stand in best possible light before world.

President made long and somewhat rambling dissertation on lack of confidence of Korean people in DNP and alleged interference of UNCURK in previous elections and seemed particularly grieved and critical about their report to General Assembly in fall of 1952.

Then we emphasized fundamental importance of appearance democratic elections as well as being so in fact.

Then turned to brief review of events of last few days and outlined Casey’s public proposal and Cuenco’s private proposal made inside group6 and explained urgent necessity of ROK and ourselves putting forward a plan which would demand unanimous and enthusiastic approval all on our side. Then explained plan B in some detail and said we were confident his government would receive overwhelming approval in south. Explained simultaneous elections in north and south far more convincing evidence of democracy and in accordance UN resolutions, and that it would prove to world that his was a completely free and constitutional government. Emphasized importance that USSR should not be able to point to any division on our side or to any plan on our side which somewhat approximated Nam Il’s plan to combine north and southern Assemblies in order to bring in new government.

President was very mild and pleasant throughout and said that even under plan A he envisaged as essential to have before elections not only complete withdrawal of Chinese Communist forces but even complete withdrawal of North Korean Communist army or its complete surrender. He said its complete surrender would be followed by immediate pardon for all those who renounced Communism and declared their allegiance to ROK Government and that others would be placed in custody. Further, he said that if thereafter there were elections in north alone under UN supervision he was completely prepared put up to people of both north and south in form of a plebiscite question whether they then wanted simultaneous elections in both north and south for both National Assembly and President, and that if people voted they did in plebiscite he was quite prepared to have elections for Assembly and President in both north and south under UN supervision and that he would in no sense stand in way if people wished to elect a new government or new President.

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Explained that while we had visualized phased withdrawal of Chinese Communist troops together with UN troops in south starting in part before elections, we had not visualized complete withdrawal Chinese Communist forces before election or surrender or handling of North Korean Communist armies as he visualized. He insisted this was only practical way to handle it.

We explained that our plan B, except for timing of troop withdrawal, was same as he outlined above except we would eliminate necessity for plebiscite first. He replied he wasn’t dictator and considered plebiscite essential.

Explained I wasn’t asking for any decision on plan B but was merely discussing it with him in order to get benefit of his judgment for you.

He continued to emphasize futility further negotiations at Geneva and we explained necessity allow all our allies who had contributed troops in fighting to have their complete say and to listen to their proposals, and for our side to put forward entirely acceptable plan with his approval.

He said there was no point to unification if immediately thereafter Communists would come south, and emphasized that if Eisenhower government gave him military divisions and logistical support he needed, he would promise not to attack Communists in north if they did not attempt to come south. He evidently believes he is going to receive such complete promises military support from Van Fleet mission that prospect of total withdrawal of UN forces is unimportant.

Again urged him to give matter thorough and careful study.

As he appeared to be tired ended interview and will see tomorrow. He said he regarded discussion as most constructive and helpful. While have nothing conclusive to report, interview on whole went quite favorably with reasoned discussion and no fireworks.

With reference to criticism of current elections he is issuing statement promising to act immediately if anybody has any evidence of illegality with respect to May elections. Evidence continues to point to very complete police intimidation of opposing candidates, threats to businessmen contributing to opposition, tearing down posters, mass demonstrations to stifle opposition, etc., and news may continue bad. With reference to Department’s telegrams 874, 881, and Geneva’s 21,7 while fully appreciating importance of world opinion to ROK Government, would like guidance on how strong we should go about making representations concerning necessity of holding free, unsuppressed, and democratic elections on May 20 and urging him to allow [Page 194] UNCURK full facilities for observation. For if he follows our recommendations respect May 20 elections and they are regarded by UNCURK as democratic and satisfactory have we not to certain extent hurt ourselves in connection with urging necessity of plan B? Also, if we urge UNCURK to get really active and there is an adverse report with respect to May 20 elections haven’t we accentuated publicity?

Re Geneva’s 26,8 Dean will delay departure subject Secretary’s further instructions. Please notify office and family.

Geneva’s 329 arrived after above-described meeting with President Rhee and comments on that will follow. Plan present that draft to President tomorrow.10

  1. Same as telegram Secto 40, Apr. 29, from Geneva, p. 155.
  2. Same as telegram Secto 41, Apr. 29, from Geneva, p. 157.
  3. Dated Apr. 30, p. 171.
  4. Same as telegram Secto 59, Apr. 30, from Geneva; not printed, but see footnote 3, p. 173.
  5. Same as telegram Secto 60, May 1, from Geneva, ibid.
  6. Reference is to the Philippine proposal summarized in telegram 20, Apr. 30. from Geneva, p. 172.
  7. None printed. They dealt with the U.S. Delegation’s and the Department of State’s interest in urging Rhee to invite UNCURK to observe the election campaign and the elections in the Republic of Korea (396.1 GE/4–2954, 5–154, 4–3054).
  8. Dated May 1, repeated to the Department of State as telegram Dulte 38. In it, the Secretary expressed the hope that Dean would remain in Seoul beyond May 7, since the serious talks, which might lead to an acceptable solution and would require Dean’s explaining them to Rhee, were only just beginning. (110.11 DU/5–154)
  9. Dated May 2, p. 178.
  10. On May 4, the Department of State’s telegram 886 responded to telegram 1105 stating that the discussion with Rhee had been very salutary and followed exactly the right line in trying to make clear the extent to which the world would be watching the elections and the desirability of a Korean request for UNCURK observation. It left to the discretion of the Embassy in Korea the possibility of further discussions with Rhee on this subject. (795.00/5–354)