396.1–GE/3–654: Telegram

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


863. Repeated information priority Tokyo 531 (pass CINCUNC). Foreign Minister Pyun’s letter (Embtel) 8611 is clearly designed to obtain certain additional commitments from US Government in return for ROK agreement participate in Korean political conference. It is familiar tactic this government and should, I believe, be dealt with in light history our negotiations with ROK Government during past year on armistice, political conference, economic aid, et cetera. We should also be prepared for possibility early publication of letter.

Sub-paragraph (a) is fundamentally correct although language omits certain important points in DullesRhee agreement August 8.2 Sub-paragraph (b) is statement of ROK position and not agreement between US and ROK. To my knowledge we made no commitment that remotely resembles this paragraph. Sub-paragraph (c) is correct insofar as it refers to our understanding of language paragraph 60 of armistice agreement.

Numbered questions in remainder of letter appear to be attempt to establish that conference at Geneva is not political conference provided for in armistice, and therefore ROK has basis for obtaining new and more far-reaching commitments than those given ROK by US last year in connection PC envisaged under article 60.

Paragraph 11 which in effect demands we commit ourselves to resume fighting if conference fails to unify Korea is obviously key commitment desired, as it has been ever since armistice negotiations were resumed in April 1953. Rhee has consistently sought by argument, intransigence and misrepresentation to involve US Government in resumption of hostilities within specified time limit, and present letter is merely continuation same tactics toward identical objective. This has been crux of difficulties in US/ROK relations for past eleven [Page 32]months. This has been and remains point of no return in all our recent dealings with Rhee.

With further reference Pyun’s numbered paragraphs, I assume answer to question one negative, and to question two affirmative. Re questions three, four and five I take it we are prepared to confirm that our commitments re Korean PC under article 60 apply generally to conference at Geneva (but not as stated by Pyun in introductory paragraphs a, b and c): Questions six, seven, eight and nine appear to be largely expressions of unilateral opinion to which we can probably make explicit (if to ROK perhaps unpalatable) replies; certainly I assume we do not propose to permit those cracks to go by default. Re question (10) recommend we reply categorically that US, UK and France did not consult in any way with Communist China re arrangements for Geneva conference. While we cannot state ROK was consulted in full detail in advance of Berlin communiqué, points can be made that Secretary furnished information to President Rhee re developing discussions on Asia in Berlin, that communiqué was immediately furnished Rhee by Young and me on February 19, and furthermore that Geneva terms of reference include most important points sought by ROK Government during Ambassador Dean’s Panmunjom talks including absence neutrals, USSR fully responsible participant, no country bound unless it agrees, and place of meeting.

I recommend I be authorized to make early reply to Pyun on behalf of Secretary answering questions to extent Department deems desirable. In addition I think it should be pointed out (1) that as demonstrated by my talk with Rhee on February 19 and on several occasions thereafter with Pyun (Rhee having been absent from Seoul) US Government has sought to maintain closest possible liaison with ROK Government, as witness invitation for head ROK delegation to visit Washington immediately for consultation; (2) what with time passing and ROK failure collaborate, it becomes increasingly difficult follow procedure desired by US of consulting first with ROK, in advance consultation other UN allies; (3) ROK continuing criticism and recrimination is alienating Korea’s friends and benefiting only Communists; and (4) ROK absence from conference would merely deprive it of voice in proceedings bearing directly on ROK future.

Point four above may be key item in our reply, since Rhee is obviously trying to blackmail us into commitments we have hitherto declined to give him, in exchange for ROK agreement to attend. To extent he remains convinced conference cannot be held without his presence, his price may remain high, conversely if he thinks conference can be held without him idea of carping on sidelines instead of donning uniform may become less attractive.

  1. Supra.
  2. Presumably, this is a reference to the joint statement issued at Seoul on Aug. 8, 1953 by President Rhee and Secretary Dulles, the text of which is printed in the Department of State Bulletin, Aug. 17, 1953, p. 203.