396.1–GE/3–654: Telegram

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


861. Repeated information Tokyo 530. Tokyo pass CINCUNC. Reference: Embtel 858, March 5.1 Foreign Minister Pyun has just sent me copy of following letter dated March 3 addressed to the Secretary:

“Confidential. Seoul, 3 March 1954.

“My dear Mr. Secretary: I should like to remind you that through the visit of you and Assistant Secretary of State Walter S. Robertson,2 the following understandings were reached either orally or in writing: (a) If it becomes clear that the political conference of Korea has failed to agree upon the means of unifying Korea at the end of the three-months period after its convening, the United States and the Republic of Korea will walk out and discuss measures to be taken with a view to effecting the unification; (b) in the political conference, the United States and the Republic of Korea shall be the principal participants on the side of the free world, while Communist China and North Korea play the principal role for the Communist side. As for the other United Nations having military units in the Korean war, they will naturally form consultant body and thus contribute to the position of the United States in the political conference. They will not exercise votes, however, while the United States and the Republic of Korea do; (c) the political conference shall be confined to the Korean question.

“Under these understandings, we agreed to a political conference provided for in the terms of armistice. Due to the Communist intransigence, however, no political conference has been so much as called, although six full months have elapsed since the signing of the armistice. The Panmunjom preliminary talks broke up without being able to agree upon the date or the place for the political conference. We cannot help, therefore, thinking that it is high time that we were discussing other measures to effect our common objective, the unification of Korea. But instead, the four Foreign Ministers conference has agreed upon the Geneva conference, to which we are now invited.

“We appreciate the invitation very much. We feel we ought to be willing to participate in the conference as one of the principal participants. Before we accept the invitation, however, we wish to get clarifications on the following questions:

  • “(1) Is the proposed Geneva conference a continuation of the Panmunjom preliminary conference?
  • “(2) Is the Geneva conference to displace the UN-sponsored political conference that was to take up the question of Korean unification only?
  • “(3) Will our understandings listed above hold good in regard to the Geneva conference?
  • “(4) If the conference meets on April 26 as proposed, how long is it to be allowed to continue? When will be the deadline?
  • “(5) If this conference also fails at the end of a given period of time, what steps, peaceful or otherwise, will the United States take to achieve the original objective, unification of Korea?
  • “(6) Is the Soviet Union not to have more prestige and consequently more weight by being one of the four sponsor-nations than if it had been invited as a neutral? Sponsors of a conference, like charter members of an organization, are usually supposed to enjoy unwritten privileges over ordinary members.
  • “(7) Is the Communist China not to gain also in prestige or weight by assuming, as a practical matter, the circumstantial status of what may be properly called quasi-sponsor or, at least, a standing member, quite distinct from other members, except the four sponsor-nations, who will be shelved when the other subject, from the discussion of which they are respectively barred, is taken up, again as a practical matter, very much at the pleasure of the five standing members?
  • “(8) Why is the scope of the proposed Geneva conference to be so enlarged as to include the Indochinese problem? The localization of the Korean War has been so constantly emphasized by the United States as well as by the United Nations. We cannot afford to allow the enemy to shift from the Korean question to the Indo-chinese one back and forth and gain in his bargaining power.
  • “(9) The discussion of both the Korean and Indochinese problem in one conference necessarily implies a package deal for the Orient, and the discussion of one problem cannot be entirely free from that of the other, though, from necessity, may be carried on behind the scene. Thus either of the open discussions on two different questions will prove farcical proceedings to justify or implement the secret understandings reached among the five standing members in the course of the other discussion. Can such an arrangement be fair for the Republic of Korea?
  • “(10) The Communist China, the UN-condemned aggressor, was consulted in the crucial matter of arranging for the Geneva conference while this government was left in the dark. Is it compatible with the often-given pledge that this government will be consulted in advance on all important matters affecting Korea?”

    [Here follows the text of the eleventh question which was excluded from this publication at the request of the Republic of Korea Government.]

“Your answers to these questions will be greatly appreciated as helpful to the formation of our decision on participation.

[Page 31]

“With warmest regards, yours sincerely, Y. T. Pyun, Minister of Foreign Affairs.”

In his transmitting letter dated today Pyun states his communication “was written some days ago, but owing to fact it needed approval of my official superiors it has just gone out by pouch.”

  1. The text of this message read as follows:

    “Saw Foreign Minister Pyun this morning with specific reference to Deptel 710, March 3. He said matter in hands of President Rhee who returns to Seoul from Chinhae March 7 or 8. I emphasized we have sought from outset to consult first with ROK with view develop common position on both substantive matters and tactics.” (396.1–GE/3–554)

  2. Reference is to discussions held by Robertson in June–July 1953 with President Rhee and by Dulles in August 1953 with Rhee; for documentation, see volume xv .