795.00/5–2654: Telegram

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


1247. Repeated information Tokyo 739, priority Geneva 127, Geneva for USDel. Tokyo for CINCUNC. Department inform Ambassador Dean. Re Embassy telegram 122 to Geneva, repeated Department 1239, Tokyo 734.1 Following ceremony honoring General Anderson Commanding General Fifth Air Force this morning President Rhee asked me to remain and we had conversation re Geneva developments. In contrast attitude yesterday described reference telegram, President today pessimistic and spoke bitterly of futility of continuing talk with Communists since only way to deal with them is to employ forces. Attitude this morning duplicated during most of Ambassador Dean conversations as reported his telegrams during past few weeks. I told Rhee again of satisfaction USDel with reception Pyun’s May 22 proposals (Geneva telegram 98, repeated Department 289, Tokyo 842) whereupon Rhee, again in contrast attitude yesterday, said that as for unity, that is “only paper proposition among talkers”, and as for Pyun, Rhee had been on point of recalling him from Geneva for failure [Page 320] include in 14-point proposal provision covering surrender or withdrawal of North Korean Communists. Rhee said that even if Chinese Communists withdraw unless there is included provision covering North Korean Communists, North Korean territory will be infiltrated with Communists, both Koreans brought in from Manchuria and Chinese disguised as Koreans, with result absolutely impossible hold fair election. Hence President said he wanted us to know he views Pyun’s proposal as something Rhee has accepted “with mental reservations”. However, rather than withdraw ROK delegation from Geneva, which President admitted would have rocked boat, he was taking no action for time being.

I told Rhee that withdrawal ROK delegation would have had deplorable effect particularly at time when ROK proposal apparently receiving gratifying support from our friends and furthermore at time when Communists have not yet expressed themselves regarding it. My impression from this part of conversation is that although Rhee evidently much annoyed when he first read Pyun’s text he unlikely at moment go beyond possible reprimand of his Foreign Minister. (If Rhee had seen text in advance he would unquestionably have changed it to cover North Korean Communists).

President next turned to mutual defense treaty (please see Embassy telegram 95 to Geneva, 1204 to Department, 712 to Tokyo, May 193) informing me of message from ROK Chargé d’Affaires Washington who said State Department preparations now completed for exchange ratifications and promulgation. In this connection Rhee again asked whether it would be possible modify text in two particulars. First a termination clause similar to US–Japan treaty (I assume Article IV although Rhee did not specify) and second “an aggressor clause” which would cover US assistance in ROK military action to eject Communist aggressors from north. After considerable conversation reminiscent Rhee’s efforts obtain secret letter from Dean, Rhee agreed not insist now on second modification. But he declared Korea must have improved termination clause lack of which he described as discrimination.

I pointed out any modification or amendment of treaty would have to follow same Washington procedure as treaty itself including Senate approval and that delay probably until next session would be caused by attempt to modify present already approved text. Also said executive of course not in position guarantee Senate approval.

Rhee then said he desired to have statement from State Department approving desired termination provision and agreeing to recommend such provision to Senate. Rhee asked if I would give him such letter [Page 321] and if not would I request one from Secretary Dulles. Whether Rhee plans instruct Chargé d’Affaires to defer exchange ratifications until this point clarified remains to be seen.

I gave Rhee no encouragement Secretary would accept different termination clause, much less Rhee’s proposed “aggressor clause”.

Lastly Rhee brought up question of Ambassador Dean’s last letter to him to which he said he wished reply “for the record” and that he would shortly send me reply with request it be telegraphed Washington. I find letter in question (dated May 20) not previously transmitted Washington. Text in following telegram.4

  1. Dated May 25, not printed. In it, Briggs said that he had found Rhee in good spirits on May 24 and 25, expressing satisfaction with Pyun’s presentation on May 22. In turn, Briggs told Rhee that the United States appreciated the emendation of point 2 and felt that, despite differences over points 12 and 13, Allied disunity had not developed and the Republic of Korea was in a relatively strong position at Geneva. (033.1100/5–2554)
  2. Dated May 24, p. 316.
  3. Ante, p. 284.
  4. The text of the letter, as transmitted in telegram 1248, read as follows:

    “My Dear Mr. President: In Prime Minister’s letter to me dated May 19, 1954, I was sincerely sorry to note you had thought it necessary to add the five words ‘withdrawal of North Korean forces’ in paragraph 4 of proposed statement of general principles.

    Our inability to agree on a statement of principles at Geneva will, I believe, have an exceptionally unfavorable effect on public opinion in United States and of Congressional opinion, and be extremely detrimental to the purpose of cooperative effort in working out of an economic aid program and your military forces build-up to combat the Communist menace which we both have in mind.

    Faithfully yours, signed Arthur H. Dean, Special Ambassador to Korea”. (795B.5/5–2654)

    In telegram 1249, also dated May 26, Ambassador Briggs sent the following further message to the Department of State:

    “Inform Ambassador Dean. If we wish to do so I think we can legitimately interpret President’s Rhee’s remarks today re defense treaty (Embtel 1247, repeated Geneva 127, repeated Tokyo 739) as basis for further postponing exchange of ratifications, at least until Rhee has received and considered Secretary’s reply to request for commitment on future amendment of termination clause.” (795.00/5–2654)