Dean–Briggs–Rhee Meeting, Seoul, May 8, Morning: The Ambassador in Korea (Briggs) to the Department of State
1134. Repeated information Tokyo 668, niact Geneva 59. Tokyo for CINCUNC. For Secretary from Dean. Drafted following message and handed to President in two and one-half hour conference this morning at which Prime Minister and Acting Foreign Minister Cho also present.
“If the Communist aggressors will withdraw from my country, so that genuinely free elections can be held throughout Korea, under UN supervision and observation, I, Syngman Rhee, President of the Republic of Korea, pledge my complete cooperation and will recommend [Page 227] to the National Assembly the adoption of such amendments to the constitution as may be necessary to have national elections for the National Assembly and the Presidency.
But there must be no repetition of the Communist aggression of 1950, after the peaceful withdrawal of the United States forces in 1949. Therefore, as President of the Republic of Korea, I plan to ask the United Nations to allow UNC forces to remain in Korea until after the elections in order to ensure that the Communist promises with respect to genuinely free elections shall this time be honored and observed, and a truly united free and independent Korea shall come into being.”
Told President we considered situation exceptionally grave and that he must not consider we were merely trying please English and the French, but that we must make proposal which will command universal free world respect and command majority American public opinion, and that it was imperative administration command broad American public opinion support not only for its proposals at Geneva, but in order to get public support for appropriation for continued Korean rehabilitation and build-up ROK forces.
Emphasized phased withdrawal UN forces in south was not because we had lost interest or because we no longer desired to have American boys fight but was essential condition to obtain withdrawal Chinese Communist forces in north.
While talking to President, your 8971 was handed me. Summarized provisions first paragraph to him, stated you regarded joint action along lines Plan B imperative and would be extremely difficult hold allies in line if not made.
He at first said he was not going to make any commitments until he had received all the commitments from General Van Fleet which he expected.
Pointed out our initial philosophy was to stand by and not to abandon him, but psychologically abandonment is uppermost in their minds. Believe they think we are using phased withdrawal as excuse to do what we want to do anyhow. Assured him our basic philosophy was to build-up ROK divisions as UNC forces withdrawn and was sure he and General Van Fleet would work everything out in harmony but that mission was essentially fact-finding, and decision today on Plan B was imperative and could not wait. Stated further we were allies and must act together and we would not be urging him to go forward on Plan B unless we thought it was in best interests Korean people. He stated he would not issue statement unless we guaranteed to resume [Page 228] fighting in Korea if Communists refused to withdraw. Pointed out UN not compelled to withdraw if Communists do not and that I had been authorized state to him mutual defense pact would be promulgated and he therefore had that treaty in the event of renewed Communist aggression.
For some time he held out for guarantees by President Eisenhower Korea would be united and US should take full responsibility therefore, because he claimed it was through our original mistakes in allowing Soviet troops in north that country was divided.
Reviewed our response to aggressors, number of American lives lost, and terrific over-all American expenditure in Korea.
Contrary to Geneva’s 54,2 President read aloud to us telegram from Pyun in which Pyun denounced Plan B in scathing terms, termed it unmitigated surrender to Communists and urged President to stand firm on Plan A. Again pointed out disaster such procedure and stated Plan must be accepted by Communists in whole, and not in part, and doubted whether Communists would accept because our insistence UN supervision elections. President replied that argument was often used on him in connection with armistice and eventually Communists always accepted. Prime Minister and Acting Minister Cho both urged President to stand on Plan A.
Said failure endorse Plan B most disastrous US–ROK relations and Communists would regard lack of unity between us at Geneva as great victory.
Fall of Dien Bien Phu announced while we were there and President made long statement to effect we made big and resounding promises about fighting Communists but could not keep them because of American and Congressional opinion against use of American troops in Asia.
Again made strong plea to him to issue statement and he promised to discuss and call me later today. Explained possible strategy outlined Geneva’s 513 and reasons therefore but he still unalterably opposed any Chinese Communist troops remaining in north before elections, demands complete surrender North Korean Communist forces, and insists ROK electoral laws must be used in elections.
With respect to above quoted statement, explained we preferred leave in words “and the Presidency” but that he could omit in his discretion.