795.00/5–2054: Telegram

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

top secret

1216. Repeated information Tokyo 723 and niact Geneva 105. Tokyo pass CINCUNC. For the Secretary from Dean. Geneva for Smith. [Page 296] Discussed Embtel 11551 with General Anderson,2 Commander, Fifth Air Force, who had also discussed with General Taylor. Anderson feels very important we retain air bases in Korea and quite skeptical of wisdom our agreeing to full withdrawal UN forces if that also includes Air in order to obtain only theoretical unification Korea.

At General Anderson’s suggestion mentioned matter to General Partridge, Commander, Far East Air Force[s], Tokyo, and said would be most interesting to have his comments.

General Anderson has furnished us with following comments from General Partridge and authorizes us transmit Department.

“Personal Anderson from Partridge.

“This message in eight parts. Reference last night’s conversation with Dean and you regarding his message to State dated 11 May, his entire dispatch not currently available and I rely on exclusive for Ridgway from Hull dated 13 May for basic provisions upon which to comment.

  • “Part 1. Based on acceptance of plan B. (a). Agree completely with thought US must deal with overall security program in Far East rather than on bilateral basis. (b). Agree we should tell Rhee where he stands with respect to military and economic aid.…
  • “Part 2. Dispatch mentions military and economic considerations, but program must go far beyond this point. Weight of political and psychological factors is so great that these aspects of US relationships with ROK are primary. Our overall program should be founded on a strong educational plan which as by-product will indoctrinate the young people of Korea in US ideologies.
  • “Part 3. With respect to rejection of plan B, any thought that we can work out a mutually phased time table involving both the withdrawal of our own troops and those of the Communists is unrealistic. Mention is made also of denouncing the Mutual Defense Pact. It would appear impractical to denounce a pact once it is made. A better course, by far, would be to reject such a pact prior to its promulgation. Since the Koreans provide the only native forces in the Far East ready and willing to fight in support of Western ideals, the latter course certainly should be adopted only as a last resort.
  • “Part 4. With regard to implementation of a mutual defense pact based on who makes the first attack, the proposed course of action may be a good talking point, but from the military and political point of view, it is difficult to decide upon at the critical moment. At the outset of hostilities, it is extremely difficult to determine which side is actually the aggressor. Although we probably should not tell Rhee so, I feel strongly that we have a moral obligation to support the ROK whenever it gets in trouble and until such time as it is proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the ROK forces are the aggressors. With respect to permitting Rhee to take his choice between cooperating with us under proposed plan B or acting otherwise, it seems highly desirable that we adopt a course of action which will insure South Korean [Page 297] support over a long term. In other words, we should avoid pushing Rhee to point of decision between two courses, neither of which is optimum from our point of view.
  • “Part 5. Agree that important Chinese bombing targets lie from Peiping northward, but feel that paragraph regarding bases for offensive operations against these targets is overdrawn. Our pacts with Korea and Japan must without fail include authority to operate from their bases. Moreover, capacity of Russians to knock out Okinawan bases is doubtful unless atomic weapons are employed in massive attacks. Such enemy action would touch off World War III in which case Air Force is prepared to carry out atomic strikes from other islands of Pacific as situation demands, (a) Much more important to military position of US in Far East than availability of Korean bases for US air operations is implication of possible use by Communists of air bases in South Korea. Presence of Communist air forces in these fields would jeopardize security of Japanese home islands. (b) Agree with statement that attempt to carry out plan B without ROK cooperation will not seem realistic or convincing and, in fact, believe this is putting the situation too mildly. I fail to see how plan B could be implemented without the fullest cooperation of the ROK’s, and, furthermore, without some assistance from the Government of North Korea.
  • “Part 6. With respect to last paragraph above, and portion of message saying that top military commanders are not up to date on the overall thinking in the Far East, believe time has come to accept down-to-earth position on status quo in Korea. It is my opinion that Korea can be re-united only by force of arms, a course of action Rhee would applaud, but which would raise the most serious objections on the part of our allies as well as the people of the US. Realistically, therefore, we must accept the status quo and work out the best solution possible under existing circumstances. Although it will come as a blow to Rhee, I consider that the only solution is to arrange a mutual defense pact with the ROK, withdraw our military forces from Korea as rapidly as feasible, and leave there only ROK forces. These military forces should have sufficient strength to exert pressure on North Koreans and provide cushion in point of time in which US could come to the aid of South Korea before it is overrun.
  • “Part 7. US should not attempt to match strength in ground forces with combined North Korean and Chinese Communist armies, but should leave Rhee a ground arm of less than 20 divisions yet capable of executing delaying action against North Korean Army alone. He will not like this suggestion, but to do otherwise invites him to attack northward on his own initiative.
  • “Part 8. Major emphasis in US effort should be placed on economic, political and psychological stabilization of Korea and on a program of realignment of Korean sympathies toward Japan and its other neighbors outside Communist orbit in Far East rather than on military considerations. This statement is predicated on fact that the military force available to the US is of order of magnitude far exceeding anything previously visualized and that immediate prospect exists for hundred-fold amplification of even this new military power. We [Page 298] should start on long-term program to cure the causes of our Far East troubles and give this cure the full weight of our effort”.

. . . . . . .

All military commanders here seem to accept view no way actually to unite Korea except by force of arms and coalition government might possibly cost us use of bases in south with army commanders well satisfied about hundred per cent withdrawal ground troops as ROK army reaches strength. ROK Air Force, of course, not equal to North Korean.

  1. Dated May 11, p. 244.
  2. Lt. Gen. Samuel E. Anderson.