396.1–GE/3–654: Telegram

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


864. Repeated information Tokyo 532, (pass CINCUNC and CAG). While following ideas were blocked out before receipt Foreign Minister Pyun’s letter (Embtels 861 and 863)1 and problems raised by letter are obviously first order of business, this message may be helpful in longer range consideration of our substantive position at Geneva and in approach to problem of consultation with ROK:

With public unmasking Soviet intentions re Europe at Berlin conference fresh in free world’s minds believe we should seek to present an imaginative and reasonable proposal at Geneva which might similarly expose Communist intentions in Asia, and specifically in Korea. While there may be scant reason for confidence that free unified Korea likely emerge from Geneva, nevertheless if at very beginning of conference we can present proposal which has free world support and which would put clear onus on Communists for failure reach agreement, we shall at least have achieved one important objective.

Our proposal might follow general pattern of tripartite proposal for Germany at Berlin, with appropriate modification to meet Korean situation. Although there may be no more reason expect Communists will allow its application in Korea than in Germany, it would represent constructive and defensible proposal for solution Korean problem which Communists should find difficult to answer. Main elements of proposal might be: (1) Progressive withdrawal all foreign forces from Korea, to be completed by March 31, 1955, under international inspection with rights of inspecting bodies clearly specified; (2) elections throughout Korea on May 1, 1955 for representatives to National Constituent Assembly, elections to be held under international supervision with preliminary period of three months during which supervisory bodies would be empowered and enabled to determine that conditions of freedom for elections exist throughout Korea; (3) until new Korean Government established ROK Government and North Korean regime would continue exercise jurisdiction North and South of DZ and MAC would retain its authority in DZ; (4) international guarantee of powers represented at Geneva (with right for other states, such as Japan, to adhere) to maintain independence and territorial integrity of unified Korea, with or without buffer demilitarized area on both sides Yalu; (5) renunciation of special privileges in Korea for signing powers but no specific restrictions on freedom of [Page 34] action of Korean Government with respect to security forces, external aid, et cetera; (6) provision might also be made for formal recognition by new Korean Government of instrument of guarantee and reciprocal guarantee to signing powers against aggression by Korea.

Obviously President Rhee and ROK Government may be most difficult hurdle in reaching agreement on free world side of conference on some such proposal, and I am not overly optimistic Rhee’s agreement can be obtained. Nevertheless certain new elements in picture and crystallization of other developing factors may assist us in this task. First, Rhee’s principal immediate objective remains ejection of Chinese Communists from Korea and plan would provide specific target date for withdrawal prior to elections. He has, moreover, made public references to possibility of eventual US-UN withdrawal and he may be more resigned to this now. Second, Rhee has in recent months come around publicly to acceptance concept of all-Korean elections, albeit to presidency under ROK constitution rather than to Constituent Assembly, and he might now be more amenable to this additional step on assumption elections, if held under conditions of freedom, would be favorable to anti-Communist elements in Korea. While prospect elections might not retain presidency for him would be difficult pill to swallow, his agreement is not wholly inconceivable if plan offered any real hope for achievement his chief objective of Korean unification and if he thought there was good chance he would be elected to presidency. Third, events since armistice have firmly convinced Rhee that Chinese Communists are in North Korea to stay and to consolidate their power and thus no agreement at PC is possible. This factor, above all else, may persuade Rhee to buy some such proposal as one above on assumption Communists will not accept it and substantial propaganda benefit could be derived from it. Rhee has never been satisfied with propaganda advantages as a substitute for material results, however, and he might seek to elicit in return our agreement to support a military effort to unify Korea if PC fails. This, I assume, we would under no circumstances agree to.

As matter of tactics in presenting ideas to ROKs, I recommend we give them unequivocal assurances we do not contemplate and will not support any proposal for trusteeship for Korea. Recent references in Japanese press to this possibility have raised Rhee’s blood pressure and clear assurances on this score might help create attitude more conducive to acceptance our ideas. Idea of neutralization, another major bogey for Rhee, should also be avoided, and case can be made that plan outlined above does not constitute neutralization of Korea. Most difficult psychological block to overcome with Rhee, however, may be his [Page 35] fear, based on unhappy history of manner in which great powers permitted Japan to take over Korea early in century, that despite paper guarantees great powers may condone absorption of Korea by China or Japan at later date. I believe we should seek to present convincing case that our interest in Korea and support for her is continuing one.

  1. Both dated Mar. 6, p. 29 and supra.