The Ambassador in Korea (Briggs) to the Department of State
926. Repeated information priority Tokyo 565. Tokyo pass CINCUNC. President’s letter delivered this morning to President Rhee who received it with equanimity, in great contrast his attitude when last previous communication delivered (Embtel 635, January 6).1 Rhee read letter slowly aloud in presence Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. After asking me to express his thanks and appreciation to President Eisenhower, Rhee talked in mild vein for 15 minutes approximately as follows:
Rhee said communication called for careful study but that it seems clear to him US now desires reduce American personnel in Korea which Rhee called “understandable”. He referred to advantage from US point of view of substituting ROK for American and other UN personnel observing that he had been greatly impressed by recent Reader’s Digest article by General Van Fleet in which latter discusses [Page 49]economy of utilization Korean troops. According to this, Rhee said one American costs as much to put in the field here as 25 Koreans. This led President to rambling observation [garble] possibly of galvanizing Asians themselves to fight Communists, which necessarily is basis his recent activities seeking to bring various Asian leaders together for what he termed informal conference and discussion at Chinhae next month. President also mentioned his impending purchase of powerful radio equipment and expressed disappointment when Prime Minister said it could not be installed and functioning for six months. Shortly thereafter Rhee spoke in almost identical terms during farewell call by Air Force General Weyland2 which took place after his meeting with me.
President’s mood was benign but he appeared unusually vague. He gave no concrete indication of intentions concerning Geneva conference, other than to declare letter would receive his most careful attention.