396.1–GE/3–1754: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Embassy in Korea


739. For Briggs from Secretary. Please deliver following to Foreign Minister Pyun.

“March 17, 1954. My dear Mr. Minister: I have your letter of March 3, 1954,1 which requests certain answers to a list of questions regarding the Berlin agreement and the forthcoming Korean Political Conference to be opened at Geneva on April 26, 1954. In response to earlier questions, representatives of the United States Government have orally explained to you the nature and significance of the Berlin agreement.

The Korean Political Conference, to which the Soviet delegate reluctantly agreed at Berlin, is precisely the kind of conference which the Republic of Korea and the United States long ago agreed to seek. The participants are identical with those contemplated by President Rhee and me in our conversations of last August providing a clear-cut conference between the two sides which were involved in the fighting, uncluttered by neutrals. The objective remains the same, being now clearly defined as “a united and independent Korea.” Geneva was then mutually agreed to be an acceptable place for the conference. The program is consistent with the General Assembly Resolution of August 28, 1953. The results in our opinion are more advantageous to our position than those which Ambassador Dean, with great skill and in close consultation with President Rhee and with you, attempted unsuccessfully to obtain at Panmunjom. We remained firm at Berlin on our basic terms for a political conference. The Communists finally yielded to our position. They accepted a specific date and the location and the actual participants we had long proposed. There will be no neutrals and the Soviet Union will bear a full share of responsibility for the progress and outcome of the conference—a principle we stood for together at Panmunjom.

The U.S.S.R. is not a ‘sponsoring power’ in so far as the Republic of Korea and the nations with forces under the United Nations Command are concerned. The Soviet Government extends invitations only to the Chinese Communist and North Korean regimes. The United States Government, consistent with the General Assembly Resolution of August 28, 1953, invites the participants on our side. This procedure on invitations demonstrates the two-sided nature of the conference.

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We will go to the Korean Political Conference determined to press constantly and vigorously to achieve agreement there on our common objectives—the independence and unity of a free Korea. I believe that this Conference will provide a splendid forum for the free world to proclaim the principles of justice and freedom for a united Korea and seek to put them into effect. It will also serve usefully to unmask and challenge the wiles and designs of the Communists. In this great endeavor, it is our firm resolve to work closely with the Government of the Republic of Korea. It was in that spirit that I went to Seoul last August to consult personally with President Rhee on a political conference, as well as on the mutual defense treaty.

In the present circumstances, the United States Government, of course, wishes to consult first with the Republic of Korea. Immediately on my return from Berlin and before I went to South America, I directed that an official invitation be extended to your Government to begin consultations with us as soon as possible to enable us to arrive at a commonly agreed position concerning the Korean Political Conference. I regret that it has not yet been possible to begin these discussions. I trust that an acceptance will soon be forthcoming from your Government, as there is much preparation to be completed before April 26, and as we also wish to consult well in advance of April 26 with the other Governments which have sent forces to Korea. I can not emphasize too strongly the indispensability of the greatest possible unity and common purpose on our side before and during the Conference.

Your letter to me refers to certain oral or written understandings which you believe have been reached between representatives of our two Governments. The points contained in the first and third subparagraphs of the first paragraph of your letter apparently refer to the joint communiqué of August 8, 1953, but go beyond it in some respects. The United States adheres to its agreements expressed in the communiqué, but not to any enlargements of it.

We have no understanding—oral or written—between us regarding subparagraph (b) of the first paragraph of your letter. It is, however, my understanding that the United States and the Republic of Korea would be the principal participants on the side of the free world in the sense that any solution of the Korean problem upon which we jointly agree would, in fact, be effective from the standpoint of our side, whereas any solution with which we disagreed could not in fact be effective. Neither of our countries would, of course, be bound except by its own consent. We do not, however, believe that this differentiation which exists de facto should be formalized by attempting to cast other allied nations whose soldiers fought and died in Korea into the role of mere ‘consultants.’

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As to your list of questions, I would answer them as follows:

The Korean Political Conference at Geneva cannot be a continuation of the talks at Panmunjom because those talks dealt only with arrangements, and not with substance. Substantive matters will be the principal concern of the Korean Political Conference at Geneva.
The Korean Political Conference at Geneva is the type of conference envisaged by the General Assembly Resolution of August 28, 1953. The Secretary General of the United Nations has declared his belief that the conference agreed on at Berlin is in full accord with that resolution. Furthermore, that resolution set forth the composition for the United Nations and authorized the United States, in whatever manner it deemed appropriate, to arrange the time and place. That we tried to do at Panmunjom, and succeeded in achieving at Berlin.
3, 4 and 5.
With regard to the duration, objectives, and results of the political conference, I confirm the understandings contained in the joint communiqué of August 8, 1953, and their validity and pertinence with respect to the position of the United States at the Korean Political Conference at Geneva. It should be the common effort of our side to expedite the proceedings of the Conference. Three months should allow ample time to test and expose the intentions of the other side, as envisaged in the joint communiqué.
6 and 7.

I believe that my report by radio to the American people on February 24, 1954, provides a detailed response to these questions, for the answer to both is clearly negative. (A copy of my report is enclosed.)2

There is no implication of any kind that any nation will enjoy ‘unwritten privileges’ over any other nation. Certainly, the responsible participation of the Soviet Union in the Conference—and our two Governments have continuously agreed on this essential requirement—is preferable to the Soviet Union’s attendance as a ‘neutral’. There is not the slightest basis for the assumption that ‘as a practical matter’ Communist China is a quasi-sponsor and that it will gain in prestige and weight by reason of its attendance at the Conference. At Berlin I brought the Soviet Union to drop its previous insistence upon acceptance of Communist China as a ‘great power’. Communist China will attend the Conference neither as a great power nor as a government so far as the United States is concerned. The Berlin communiqué says explicitly that neither the invitation to, nor the holding of, the Korean Political Conference ‘shall be deemed to imply diplomatic recognition in any case where it has not already been accorded’. We will deal with the Chinese Communists at Geneva—just as we did at Panmunjom—as the enemy aggressor. The fact that Communist China is involved in two aggressions certainly does not add to its prestige or position in any area outside the Communist bloc.

8 and 9.
The Indochina problem is to be discussed at Geneva independently of the Korean problem and by a different group of interested nations. We do not believe that the Government of the Republic of Korea would assume to exercise a veto power over the discussion of Communist aggression in Indochina, where the Republic of Korea is [Page 42]not a belligerent. Obviously, the nations which are involved have a right, if they wish, to discuss their own problems. The fact that both problems may be under discussion simultaneously, but independently, does not imply a ‘package deal for the Orient’.

The Berlin agreement on the Korean Political Conference did not go beyond the main points on which President Rhee and I had found ourselves in agreement last August. Since the arrangements made at Berlin conform to our understandings in Seoul of last August and the General Assembly Resolution, and with the views of the seventeen (including Korea) meeting in Washington, I did not think it necessary to undertake additional consultations on matters already discussed and agreed upon many times in great detail between our two Governments.

During the course of the Berlin meetings, I asked that President Rhee be kept informed of my statements on behalf of the Republic of Korea and regarding Communist China. The United States representatives in Korea informed you of our shift of effort from Panmunjom to Berlin to obtain the type of conference which both our governments had been seeking. As to your statement that Communist China was consulted regarding the Korean Political Conference at Geneva, I have no knowledge of any such consultations. We have good reason to believe that the Chinese Communist regime is thoroughly dissatisfied with the outcome of the Berlin Conference.

The President’s letter of November 4, 1953 to President Rhee deals, we believe, with and provides an answer to this question.3

I hope that these answers will be closely studied by your Government.

The opening of the Korean Political Conference is rapidly approaching. We should lose no time in consulting and fixing our common position. Therefore, it is my earnest hope that the Republic of Korea will soon accept the invitation which this Government has extended to attend the Korean Political Conference at Geneva. I also hope that the Republic of Korea will as soon as possible send to Washington whoever will be its chief representative at Geneva, in order to enable us to work closely together on procedural arrangements and substantive positions, and to continue the cooperative relationships to which both Governments have devoted their attention and their energies in the past.

Irrespective of the opinions which we may entertain as to the likelihood of the success of the Korean Political Conference, I do not [Page 43]believe that it would be understood or easily forgiven if the Government of Korea should refuse to take part in a conference to be held at a place and under circumstances corresponding to its own choice, designed to bring about ‘the establishment, by peaceful means, of a united and independent Korea’.

With my best personal regards,

Sincerely yours, John Foster Dulles

  1. See telegram 861, Mar. 6, from Seoul, p. 29.
  2. See the editorial note, p. 21.
  3. In the letter under reference, President Eisenhower cautioned Rhee against unilateral military action in the following terms: “if you should decide to attack alone, I am convinced that you would expose the ROK forces to a disastrous defeat and they might well be permanently destroyed as an effective military force.… If you were to plan to initiate military action while the Communist forces are complying with the Armistice, my obligation as to both United States forces and other United Nations forces would be to plan how best to prevent their becoming involved and to assure their security.” (Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, Whitman file) For the complete text of this letter, see volume xv .