157. Letter From the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Murphy) to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Gray)1

Dear Mr. Gray : You have doubtless read an article in the “New York Times” of June 14, 1956 by Mr. Anthony Leviero (page 1, column 5),2 which purports to state the views of the Department of Defense on the Armistice Agreement in Korea, and particularly the problem of obsolescence of weapons.

I am concerned about the central thesis of this article that the Armistice Agreement precludes the replacement of obsolete material and that therefore the United States should not slavishly observe the terms of the truce. This view is not in accord with the views of the Departments of Defense and State, as set forth in a telegram to CINCUNC on June 24, 1955 (Defense message 983878),3 stating that the problem of obsolescence can be met by a reasonable and conscientious construction of the Armistice Agreement. Acting Secretary of State Hoover restated this view in his letter to Secretary of Defense Wilson on May 5, 1956.4

It is important that the Departments of State and Defense follow a consistent line, and make publicly clear that the United Nations Command will continue to observe the Armistice Agreement and that we believe the problem of obsolescence of equipment can be met within the terms of the Armistice Agreement. It is suggested that officers of our two Departments state the United States’ position accordingly in background briefings of the press or in response to questions.

The Department of State will be prepared to consult soon with the Department of Defense upon the timing of the introduction of new types of weapons as agreed to in our letter of May 5, and we will have to consider further at that time our public position with respect to the action taken.5

[Page 285]

Sincerely yours,

Robert Murphy 6
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 795.00/6–1556. Secret. Drafted by Norred and cleared with L/UNA, UNP, and EUR.
  2. See footnote 3, Supra .
  3. See footnote 4, Document 110.
  4. Document 142.
  5. Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense Perkins McGuire responded for Gray in a letter to Murphy on June 27. McGuire agreed that it was important to follow a consistent line in dealing with the press and indicated that the appropriate offices in the Department of Defense would be instructed to adhere to the view that “the resolution of the problem of obsolescence can be accomplished legally within the terms of paragraph 13(d) of the Armistice Agreement as a matter of interpretation of the Agreement in the light of the actions of the other side.” He added that the Department of Defense would be prepared early in July to indicate the type and number of new weapons to be introduced into South Korea and to draft joint instructions to CINCUNC to that end. (Department of State, Central Files, 795.00/6–2756)
  6. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.