Dean—Briggs—Rhee Meeting, Seoul, May 6: The Ambassador in Korea (Briggs) to the Department of State
1125. Repeated information Tokyo 663, information niact Geneva 52. Geneva for Smith. Tokyo for CINCUNC. For Secretary from Dean. Ambassadors Briggs and Dean saw President Rhee, Prime Minister, Minister of Defense and acting Foreign Minister Cho after social visit of General Van Fleet had ended.
Told President was your plan formally to conclude ratification defense pact within next few weeks and since it had been consented to by Senate it would not be possible to make any changes therein unless whole matter was put off for year or more which would be unfortunate. President said Korean pact could be denounced by either party on one year’s notice whereas Japanese treaty had longer life and he wanted same benefits without “discrimination”. We said without [Page 214] making any commitment would investigate but considered essential Korean defense pact be promulgated as signed and consented to.
Said considered urgently important that all free world nations should agree upon pact for unification of Korea which could be announced at Geneva tomorrow. Suggested section IV plan B be modified to provide that withdrawal of substantially all North Korean forces shall be completed or substantial progress made thereon in manner satisfactory to UNCURK during a blank day period immediately prior to holding of elections on date to be announced by UNCURK. Prime Minister did not like word “substantially” and President objected to mutually-phased withdrawal, maintaining in any event it was unconditionally essential (a) that Chinese Communist and North Korean Communist forces should be withdrawn or surrendered in north in such manner as absolutely to ensure free elections in north and did not like idea of leaving this to judgement of UNCURK, (b) insisted it was unalterable requirement that there be no cooperation or collaboration in any form between his government and Chinese or North Korean Communist Government, which presumably goes for cooperation on electoral laws, (c) declared there must be assurances by Chinese Communists and Soviets there would be no actual or threatened interference with elections in north, (d) insisted nations on UNCURK had never had ROK approval and that matter had to be administered by United Nations itself. We assured him you saw logic of his insistence that Chinese Communists be withdrawn before elections in north but that only practical way of getting Chinese Communists to withdraw was to phase coordinated withdrawals of United Nations forces in south and to require substantial withdrawals but to give UNCURK some such discretion as outlined above.
Prime Minister and Defense Minister both gagged at only requiring substantial withdrawal before free election.
Rhee insisted no strings could be attached to absolute requirement of Communist withdrawal as precedent to elections and requirement of no interference by Soviets and no requirement of collaboration by his government with Communists. He further said his offer to have elections in both north and south for assembly and presidency after free elections in north if people so demanded by plebiscite were only his personal views.
Minister of Defense then handed President statement he had written out last night in which he expressed fear that elections in north and south would bring bring about degeneration of morale in ROK armed services and possible disorders. Minister insisted situation would be comparable to that during US–Soviet conferences 1946 and 1947 and that requirement have election for presidency with possibility of replacement [Page 215] of chief executive would throw consternation into ranks of ROK Army. They evidently fear solid Communist bloc in north with coalition of opponents of Rhee’s Liberal Party in the south.
Again urged necessity of complete unity between US and ROKs at Geneva and essential no nation on free side should present plan different from our presentation and absolute necessity of not having Geneva talks fail because of lack of unity between US and ROKs and called attention to news stories that West was paralyzed at Geneva and essential this situation be corrected.
President finally said only solution was to have General Van Fleet make such commitments as would augment ROK armed forces to such an extent that they could freely move north and annihilate Communist forces.
President was obviously extremely tired after Van Fleet welcoming ceremonies at airport and President’s house this afternoon and we suggested postponement further discussions until 8:30 tomorrow morning.
At dinner later this evening explained to Minister Defense in some detail necessity of our presenting combined constructive plan which would command instant respect. He replied he had already spoken what he sincerely believed and if President and ourselves worked out program he would interpose no further objection though Prime Minister inclined to believe President’s position final. However, will push on tomorrow.1
The following subsequent message was sent to the Department as telegram 1126, May 7, from Seoul, repeated to Geneva as telegram 53:
“For Secretary from Dean. Geneva for Smith. Re Geneva’s 44 to Seoul repeated Department Secto 112 [dated May 6, p. 211]. Reftel received after despatch our 1125. Absolutely no difference in thinking between you and ourselves and will do utmost to urge Rhee’s prompt acceptance in talks this morning. Arrival other mission has to some extent complicated timetable but will iron out. Briggs” (795B.00/5–654)