116. Editorial Note

A contemporary intelligence estimate on probable developments in the Republic of Korea through mid-1957 opens as follows:

“The Problem

“To analyze the present strengths and weaknesses of the Republic of Korea and to estimate probable developments and trends.

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  • “1. President Rhee, now over 80, will retain his absolute political control as long as he is physically able to hold office. (Para. 18)
  • “2. His primary objectives will remain the unification of Korea under ROK control, maintenance of US aid and support, and opposition to Japanese resurgence. Economic development will remain a subordinate objective. (Para. 48)
  • “3. Rhee will probably continue to exploit, and even generate crisis situations in an attempt to maximize US support for his objectives. (Paras. 49–50)
  • “4. The chances of a Rhee-initiated attack on the North appear to be slight during the period of this estimate. Principal ROK field commanders would almost certainly stall, but would probably not be able to avoid some implementation of a Rhee order to march north. Rhee retains the capability to initiate armed action designed to provoke general hostilities, (Paras. 52–53)
  • “5. Maintenance of the ROK armed forces depends almost entirely on US support. The ROK army is superior in both offensive and defensive capabilities to the North Korean army alone, but the ROK air force is inferior. Because of the greatly superior strength of available Communist forces in northeast Asia, ultimate ROK security will continue to rest on its Mutual Defense Treaty with the US. (Paras. 40, 44, 46–47)
  • “6. If US aid is continued at approximately present levels an appreciable increase in production and some increase in consumption is likely. Nevertheless, the ROK has only a limited capability for economic development. Even were there no military establishment, maintenance of the present low level of economic activity would require substantial foreign assistance. Rhee will probably continue to be uncooperative at times with the US in the administration of US aid and unwilling to take many steps which could improve the ROK’s financial and international trade position. (Paras. 25–38, 57–58)
  • “7. Rhee’s departure from office would usher in a period of increased political instability. However, the formal constitutional succession will probably be observed, with de facto leadership probably passing to Rhee’s chief lieutenant at the time, currently Yi Ki–pung. Although the possibility of a coup and one–man rule will remain, a more moderate and less authoritarian regime will probably emerge capable of governing substantially as effectively as Rhee. (Paras. 19–21, 59)
  • “8. Regardless of who succeeds Rhee, the principal objectives of the ROK government are not likely to change substantially. However, a successor regime would probably be more cooperative with the [Page 217] US, less intransigent in its dealings with Japan, and more likely to accept the status quo in Korea. (Paras. 60–61)” ([Document title, number, and date not declassified] Department of State, INRNIE Files)

The remainder of the document is not printed and was not presented for declassification.