795B.00/5–2154: Telegram

DeanBriggsRhee Meeting, Seoul, May 21, 2:30 p.m.: The Ambassador in Korea ( Briggs ) to the Department of State


1226. Repeated information Tokyo 728, niact Geneva 111. Tokyo pass CINCUNC. For the Secretary from Dean. Geneva for Smith. [Page 307] Reference Deptels 932,1 933,2 934,3 and Geneva’s 84,4 87,5 896 and 90.7 Ambassadors Briggs and Dean called on President Rhee, Prime Minister and Acting Foreign Minister Cho at 2:30 p.m.

We tried to get President Rhee change subdivision 4 of draft statement principles to read as follows: “Before the elections specific arrangements for withdrawal from Korea of non-Korean forces shall be agreed upon by the parties accepting these principles, and withdrawal shall be observed and verified by the UNCURK in order ensure that elections are accomplished under conditions of genuine freedom”.

Thought this would accomplish purpose Deptel 932. Emphasized to President with this proposed language that before elections were held ROK as one of the parties would have to be satisfied with the specific arrangements.

President replied that he had given matter great thought and would never under any circumstances be satisfied unless we stated in so many words that (a) all the Chinese Communist armies had to be withdrawn from Korea before the elections and (b) North Korean Communist army would either have to withdraw or surrender before election. We emphasized this was not in our mutual best interests.

Reviewed again that we were missing unique opportunity at Geneva to formulate and present before the world single proposal all 16 Allies could endorse in order to command world respect, retain Allied unity, put onus on Communists, win American public opinion and congressional support for economic aid program, and Van Fleet proposals. Pointed out Communists were gleeful at division among Allies at Geneva.

Further emphasized by agreeing on principles ROK had complete details in their control and by refusing they were risking lack of unity with US which might have serious repercussions at home whereas if they accept principles break with Communists could come in course of negotiations on details and power to break lies with ROK Government.

President stressed the fact he was afraid US was losing battle against communism, had already lost China and was in process of losing not only Indochina but all Southeast Asia and that he was not prepared to accept idea that Korea must remain divided. Insisted time to fight in North Korea was now.

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We pointed out proposed strengthening of ROK army and proposed withdrawal UN forces would mean greater mobility and add greater strength to our military power and with military pact would enable us help them better than if we stayed and did not build up ROK army.

President insisted he would never permit elections while any Communists remained in country.

Outlined in forceful terms as we dared without making any threats disastrous consequences of President’s stand and offered to add in subdivision 4 after “non-Korean forces” following words “and for the restoration of peaceful conditions in North Korea” pointing out that before elections could be held this gave him right to have voice in what conditions in North Korea must actually be before elections could be held.

President again insisted that this would postpone matters for many months, insisted conditions were deteriorating in north and again begged me to support him in march north and use personal influence to get him necessary arms and ammunition required.

We flatly declined. Told him such course would spell his defeat and even if he were victorious would take many months or years to win.

President definitely promised not to go beyond the Yalu but told him such course was utterly out of question and complete folly on his part.

Rhee was exceptionally pleasant, cordial and philosophical and when Ambassador Dean informed him he was leaving for home tomorrow, President expressed great regrets and thanked him for cordial and constructive conversations and understanding heart.

Ambassador Dean again made strong plea for cooperation now and expressed his complete confidence US ability to win war against communism and its ability to work in close harmony with staunch Allies such as Korea, but President said he had made decision and could not in good conscience accede to Ambassador Dean’s request.

Ambassador Dean then urged he permit Foreign Minister Pyun to support at Geneva statement of principles without any provision on withdrawal but to outline conditions essential for free elections but President said it was essentially the same thing.

Did not mention Pyun’s 14 points in view Geneva’s 90.

In view President’s very firm and unyielding attitude seemed clear to both of us that further discussions would be unproductive and that President was holding out for some commitment, we did not have, so at 4:30 p.m. we said cordial goodbyes to President and Mrs. Rhee and Cabinet Officers present and President expressed regret at departure, wish for early return, et cetera.

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Sincerely sorry could not influence him. His stand has noticeably hardened since fall of Dien Bien Phu and he constantly wonders if USA is on winning side.

Dean leaving for Tokyo 8:30 Saturday morning.

  1. Dated May 19, p. 289.
  2. Dated May 19, p. 290.
  3. Dated May 20, p. 294.
  4. Dated May 17, p. 278.
  5. Dated May 19, p. 287.
  6. Dated May 20, p. 294.
  7. Dated May 20, p. 298