111. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, January 25, 19561


  • Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC)


  • Ambassador Erik Boheman, Swedish Embassy
  • Mr. Walter S. Robertson, Assistant Secretary, FE
  • Mr. William G. Jones, Officer in Charge, Korean Affairs, NA
  • Mr. William Nunley, RA

Ambassador Boheman said that he had just received information from Stockholm on the progress on the negotiations between the Swedes and the Communists with respect to the removal of the inspection teams to the Demilitarized Zone. The Swedish Charge in Peiping recently had been called in by the Chinese Communist Foreign Minister. The Minister had expressed his appreciation of Swedish efforts on the NNSC and said that serious consideration had been given to the Swedish proposal to remove the inspection teams to the Demilitarized Zone. There were, however, practical difficulties involved, the Foreign Minister had said, and he therefore proposed to reduce the inspection teams from three to one in each Zone. In the north the remaining team would be stationed at Sinuiju and in the south either at Inchon or Pusan. He also proposed to substantially reduce the size of the mobile teams and the NNSC personnel in the Demilitarized Zone. The Swedish Minister in Poland had been given the same proposal, but in addition the Poles had emphasized that if this proposal was not satisfactory to the Swedes they wished to continue the conversations on the subject.

Ambassador Boheman said the Swedes had decided to tell the Chinese and Poles that they would accept the Communist counterproposal provided the remaining inspection team in each Zone was also removed. Instructions to this effect had gone out to Peiping and Warsaw, but the Swedish representatives had been instructed not to act until further advice from Stockholm. The Ambassador said the purpose in this delay was to give the Swedes time to consult with the Swiss. In this connection, he pointed out that the Swedes were in fact carrying on the negotiations although the Swiss were concurring in the Swedish positions.2 The Ambassador said Bern now had been [Page 205] informed of the Swedish position and he thought that the instructions to Peiping and Warsaw to inform the Communists of the Swedish position would go out in a day or two.

Mr. Robertson said that he was gratified at the progress being made, but he was concerned at the amount of time that these actions were taking. He said he wished to clarify the Swedish position in his own mind. As he understood it, the Swedish position as made clear to the Communists was that the inspection teams stationed in the north and south should be removed to the Demilitarized Zone, and if the Czechs and Poles refused to agree to this proposal the Swedes would be unable to continue on the NNSC. Mr. Robertson said he wished to know whether this position was negotiable or not.

Ambassador Boheman replied that everything he knew indicated that the position was not negotiable. Certainly it was the Swedish belief that the Czechs and Poles were clearly under this impression. From the manner in which the Peiping counter-proposal had been made and the manner in which the Poles had reiterated that proposal with emphasis on their desire to continue the negotiations if necessary, the Swedes believed that there was a good possibility the Communists would accept the removal of all the inspection teams to the Demilitarized Zone. The Ambassador believed that it was important that the original Swedish position be maintained. To leave one team in each Zone, he told Stockholm, would be a constant source of irritation from the Swedish point of view. The Swedes in these circumstances would continue to have some responsibility for the figures submitted by the two sides without the capability of checking these figures. Leaving but one team in each Zone would be a sham and it would be most undignified for the Swedes to take part in such an operation.

Ambassador Boheman said that he recently had had a long conversation with Admiral Radford, and that the Admiral had confirmed the impression which the Ambassador had gained from Mr. Robertson that anything short of removal of the inspection teams to the Demilitarized Zone would be unsatisfactory.

Mr. Robertson said this was certainly so. If the teams had been allowed to function properly, it might have been another matter. They were not allowed to function properly, however, and to leave [Page 206] one team in each Zone would, as the Ambassador had said, be a perfect sham, and would place the Swedes in the worst possible position. Ambassador Boheman said that not only would this be an irritant from the Swedish point of view, but also an irritant because of the ROK concern with the Communists stationed on their territory. In addition, the Ambassador said that he understood that the U.S. felt that there was an absolute necessity to strengthen the military matériel of the UN Command in the south and that it might be necessary to inform the Military Armistice Commission that new materiel will be introduced.3

Mr. Robertson emphasized the difficulties with respect to aircraft. The UN Command aircraft were antiquated, and spare parts for these planes were no longer manufactured. It was thus impossible to replace aircraft in Korea with identical types. This was a practical difficulty and while there was a problem of technicalities, replacement of these planes with more modern aircraft would not violate the spirit of the Armistice Agreement. One of the purposes of the NNSC was to preserve the military balance between the two sides. This, however, had been impossible to do in view of the Communist violations of the Armistice, and their obstruction of the inspection functions of the Commission. Ambassador Boheman, while suggesting his thought might be somewhat out of order, nevertheless said he thought it would be most advisable from a public opinion point of view to produce tangible proof that the Communist forces in fact had strengthened themselves with more modern weapons. Mr. Robertson pointed out that the reports of the Swiss and Swedish members of the NNSC show that the teams had not been allowed to inspect properly in the north. He pointed out that the Communists had introduced some 450 planes into North Korea, of which over 250 were jet aircraft.

Mr. Robertson again expressed concern with the slowness with which the negotiations with the Communists were going. He pointed out that we had hoped to get something done on the NNSC by October, and now it was almost February. Ambassador Boheman said that he felt the only thing that could be done was to repeat what the [Page 207] Swedes had already told the Communists—namely, that if the Communists refused to agree to the Swedish proposal the Swedes would leave the Commission. The Ambassador’s impression was that if the Swedes stick to this position they will gain what they want.

Mr. Robertson pointed out that the Communist delay in reaching a conclusion in the negotiations with the Swedes was a deliberate tactic and one with which he was all too familiar. He then described to Ambassador Boheman the difficulties in attempting to negotiate with the Chinese at Geneva, particularly their delaying tactics and lack of good faith in adhering to even formal public commitments. In response to Ambassador Boheman’s question, Mr. Robertson confirmed his impression that there was no necessary relationship between what happened to the inspection teams in Korea and what might happen to the inspection teams in Indochina. He pointed out that in Indochina as in Korea the Communist member of the inspection teams, a Pole, had been able to effectively block the functioning of these Commissions. While the Canadians had made commendable efforts to hold the teams together, the Indian member under Nehru’s instructions had been reluctant to take a position against the Pole. The Ambassador was glad to have this confirmation. The Canadians, he said, asked the Swedes “every second month” not to do anything about the NNSC because of the influence they feared such action would have on the Commission in Indochina.

Ambassador Boheman concluded the meeting by saying that he felt the Communists, in view of the promptness of the Swedish reply to their counter-proposal, were aware that the Swedes desired a quick conclusion of the negotiations. Nevertheless, he said he would send a cable out suggesting that his Government make clear to the Communists the urgency with which the Swedes regarded the matter.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 795.00/1–2556. Secret. Drafted by Jones on January 26 and initialed by Robertson as correct.
  2. Robertson also discussed the NNSC problem with Swiss Minister De Torrenté on January 25. De Torrenté indicated that he had not received any recent information from Bern on the subject but offered to inquire. On January 30, De Torrenté saw Robertson again and told him that Swiss representatives in Beijing, Warsaw, and Prague had received the same response to the Swedish and Swiss proposal to remove the NNITs to the Demilitarized Zone that Ambassador Boheman had outlined to Robertson on January 25. The Swiss Government was disappointed in the Communist reply, but again counseled that results could only come with time and patience. Robertson dismissed the Communist counter-proposal as a sham and urged the Swiss to press for the withdrawal of the NNITs to the Demilitarized Zone before demonstrations resumed in South Korea. (Memoranda of conversations; ibid.,., 795.00/1–2556 and 795.00/ 1–3056)
  3. On January 24, Ambassador John M. Cabot wrote to Robertson from Stockholm to warn that the Secretary General of the Swedish Foreign Office, Arne Lundberg, was irritated by reports from Washington that seemed to suggest that the United States was prepared to act unilaterally to satisfy Rhee’s grievances concerning the NNSC, and that U.S. interest in removing the NNITs from South Korea related to a desire to introduce modern weapons into Korea in violation of the Armistice Agreement. Lundberg referred to a conversation between Ambassador Boheman and Admiral Radford in which Radford pressed for a solution to the NNSC issue because of the weapons problem, and he also made reference to a promise allegedly made by Eisenhower to Rhee that the NNSC would be abolished or withdrawn. Cabot expressed doubt that Eisenhower had made such a promise. (Ibid.,., 795.00/1–2456)