795.00/6–454: Telegram

BriggsRhee Meeting, Seoul, June 4, Afternoon: The Ambassador in Korea ( Briggs ) to the United States Delegation


156. Repeated information Department niact 1303, Tokyo 773. Tokyo pass CINCUNC. Re Geneva’s 111 and 113 (repeated Department Dulte 147 and Secto 369)1 also Department telegram 983 (repeated Geneva Tosec 341, to Tokyo 2687).2 Saw President Rhee for one hour this afternoon with reference Geneva developments. (Reference telegrams arrived after my meeting with Rhee this morning described Embassy telegram 1297.3)

I summarized views of Secretary set forth Department telegrams 9704 and 983. I said despite all roadblocks and difficulties created by Communists we now in excellent position Geneva and have reached point where we can consider early ending Korean phase, this to be accomplished through public demonstration Communist unwillingness accept UN role in Korean settlement, and also through Communist rejection ROK 14-point proposal. I said Communists have already [Page 345] denounced UN, and if Communists now reject ROK proposal, that rejection in judgment Secretary and USDel Geneva should provide opportunity for clean break, with Allied unity intact, and should demonstrate to world opinion Korean unification impossible because of Communist intransigence.

With these elements in mind, timetable has been prepared by USDel Geneva envisaging restricted meeting Monday June 7, possibly followed by additional restricted meetings if progress appears to have been made on Monday. If Communists reject, we shall then seek final plenary session on Korean issue before end of next week.

Rhee listened but showed no enthusiasm.

I then said these matters already fully discussed between USDel on one side and Foreign Minister Pyun and Ambassador Yang on other side, and I had been instructed to see Rhee on urgent basis, to clarify purposes of forthcoming meetings and to express confidence we could count on ROK to help us conclude Korean phase of conference soon as possible, on above lines.

I said our delegation understands Pyun may require authorization from President Rhee to attend so-called restricted meetings, which authorization I was sure in light my discussion Rhee would telegraph to Pyun.

Rhee expressed satisfaction at Secretary’s views and especially Secretary’s intention terminate Korean phase soon as possible. Rhee then entered into lengthy declaration about futility of dealing with Communists, this his standard “I told you so” line, concluding that only way to end present “dealing with nonsense” is to end it, and that Rhee is accordingly considering ordering ROK delegation to return to Korea. Rhee said he could see no profit in “any special, or restricted or any other kind of Geneva talks or meetings. Therefore, Rhee continued, he could not see his way clear to authorize Pyun to attend proposed June 7 meeting. Rhee declared this or any further meetings of same futile character would play directly into Communist hands by giving them heaven-sent opportunity to give impression of acceptance (or even partial acceptance) of 14 point plan, plus “some polite if insincere reference to UN” which would then be seized upon by neutralists (“like UK, now under domination of Nehru”) as proof that Communists intend to cooperate.

Seems from this part of Rhee’s remarks that he apprehends Communist effort, with some chance of success, may be made to smoke out UK and France in meeting June 7, who may admit pending ROK proposal is not supported in toto by other 15. Therefore, Rhee reiterated, it would be better for ROK to withdraw from Geneva now, if possible with US support, but in any case withdrawal which would be [Page 346] “dramatic demonstration” of inability free world do business with Communists.

I then found it necessary to remind Rhee that his statements concerning dealing with Communists were not news to us and that we certainly had never been under any illusion as to difficulties facing us at Geneva in our dealing with Communists. I said it was precisely for that reason Secretary Dulles last August had agreed with Rhee on withdrawal from conference, in specified circumstances, at end of 90 days. I reminded Rhee that less than half of 90-day period has elapsed, and I said we are coming to Rhee now to tell him that in our opinion Korean phase should be terminated as promptly as possible, on terms he must recognize as favorable to us. Whether that can be accomplished within next few days, as we hope, remains to be seen. We cannot guarantee it. But surely it would be tragically unfortunate if Korea after having maintained with US and our Allies for past six weeks stalwart and impressive unity, should suddenly take unilateral action to abandon Geneva, thus destroying all we had gained at Geneva since April 26.

Unilateral ROK action of that sort I told Rhee would be impossible for my government to reconcile with DullesRhee August 7 agreement.

Rhee then dropped subject of ROK withdrawal, but resumed attack on idea of ROK delegation attending any further meetings except “one final plenary called for purpose ending conference”.

After much further discussion, during which I continued to emphasize how foreign to ROK’s real interests Pyun’s boycott of restricted meetings would be, Rhee finally said he would telegraph Pyun and authorize him to attend June 7 “restricted meeting” on understanding that such meeting constitutes “regular part of Geneva conference machinery” (which I assured Rhee it was). Rhee said on that understanding he would telegraph instructions to Pyun in time for him to attend on June 7 restricted meeting.

During this conversation, also was able to set Rhee straight on Prince Wan’s views (Geneva’s 110, repeated Department Secto 365, Tokyo 1055). I said newspaper report on this project had obviously been distorted, to which Rhee replied he had nevertheless been disturbed thereby. (Press account of Wan’s proposal probably contributed to Rhee’s state of mind as reflected this afternoon’s conversation.)

While I hope as result this meeting with Rhee, Pyun may receive instructions satisfactory to us, it is clear that if Communists either at tomorrow’s plenary (Saturday) or if they on Monday come up with some soft attractive answers, and some of our Allies are beguiled thereby, we shall find Rhee harder each day to handle, and perhaps more and more difficult to keep in line.

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My views on this remain as stated Embtel 1278, June 1. From Rhee’s point of view, worst possible Geneva outcome would be any sort of standing committee arrangement, gathering UN conversational mould, while ROK perishes.

  1. Both dated June 3, pp. 340 and 341. respectively.
  2. Dated June 3. p. 341.
  3. See footnote 1, p. 328.
  4. Same as telegram Tedul 145. June 1. p. 334.
  5. Dated June 2. p. 338.