182. Telegram From the Embassy in Korea to the Department of State1

466. I had two hour discussion international situation with President Rhee this morning along lines Deptel 335 Nov 10.2 (I have not yet seen Army FM 918066,3 which Hqrs 8th Army not received.)

In conversation, I used arguments set forth reftel, except that I thought best to make no reference in first presentation to possibility of ROK unilateral action or US reaction thereto outlined para A NSC 5514.4 I also referred to responsibilities faced by UNGA, and our hopes for further progress there in settlement current problems, and expressed hope he would do what he could to maintain calm atmosphere here.

In reply, President said he was disappointed, since “US appeared to be continuing policy of peace at any price,” whereas he had hoped we would take advantage of present opportunity, evidenced primarily by Hungarian revolt and restiveness other satellites, to re-assert our support captive peoples, force Soviets to back down, and thereby regain world leadership. He went on to set out, in vague terms what he thought should be done at this juncture. Basing his position on premise that UN must help Hungary, he said if US would only speak out other nations would follow lead and UN would become such moral force that USSR would be constrained follow its decisions rather than face dishonor of being expelled, always provided UN made it plain there was no other alternative. He argued that free world was entirely too fearful of USSR, and that this fear was inhibiting adoption of firm attitude which was essential if Communist threat is ever to be eliminated. He seemed to feel, in other words, that threat of force would be sufficient to cause Soviet withdrawals everywhere, and that they could be kept in line thereafter by code of sanctions if free nations were prepared to apply them against transgressions.

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I naturally endeavored to point out certain fallacies in his arguments, pointing out that in my view US was exercising leadership, that actions by other UN members in response that leadership in recent weeks was most encouraging, and that there was great hope US policies would continue to meet with growing success. I added that it seemed to me we were on way to accomplishing basic objectives he had in mind, i.e., eventual elimination of Communist threat and enduring peace. I fear, however, that I made little impression on him, although I have found in past that he has sometimes gradually come to an acceptance of our views.

When conversation turned from international plane to Korea, President said in response my query that he had given much thought to earlier proposal by some members of govt that North Korean revolt be encouraged by covert distribution of leaflets and by other means such as radio broadcasts, and had finally decided against it. He could not, he said, encourage North Koreans to risk their lives unless South Koreans were able to come to their aid, and this, he added, could not be done without US support. He made this latter statement factually, and without apparent emotion or rancour. I then asked if he had any ideas as to discussion of Korean unification in UNGA, saying I assumed we must above all insist on withdrawal of Chinese forces in North Korea and holding of free elections. He agreed, adding that essential point was withdrawal of Chinese; hard core of Korean Communists would withdraw too, as they knew true temper of North Korean people, including Army, and unification would then come about almost spontaneously.

In connection Chinese forces North Korea, he said he had high hopes that discontent was rising in Red China, and confided that Chinese Nationalists had told him they would invade mainland next year. He went on to say that he had reached agreement with Generalissimo three years ago that if one moved other would do likewise, but avoided saying he would join Chinese next year.

In conclusion, he said he had thought of writing President Eisenhower his ideas re international situation, but hesitated to bother him.

I replied that I knew President would be glad to have his views and any constructive suggestions, as frank discussions between allies could only be helpful.

In sum, my impression remains that President, as reported my 440 Nov 8,5 is searching for some further means to unite free world [Page 348] against communism, in hope eventually achieving longed-for goal of unification, but that unilateral ROK action is not being considered at present. This may yet happen, but from evidence now available, neither he nor ROK military leaders appear to have any illusions re successful action without US logistic support at least, and are aware such support would not be forthcoming under present circumstances.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 684A.86/11–1456. Secret; Priority.
  2. In telegram 335 to Seoul, the Department instructed Ambassador Dowling to explain to President Rhee that the United States was working to effect peaceful solutions to the Middle Eastern and Eastern European crises, and that agitation and aggressiveness on the part of the Republic of Korea could undermine these important efforts. (Ibid., 684A.86/11–1056)
  3. In telegram 918066 from the Eighth Army Command at Camp Zama, Japan, to the Department of the Army, Eighth Army Intelligence, reported on a South Korean Cabinet meeting on November 10 during which President Rhee reportedly instructed his ministers and generals to plan to accomplish the unification of Korea at the earliest possible time. (Department of Defense Files)
  4. Document 24.
  5. Ambassador Dowling reported in telegram 440 that President Rhee had reviewed the world situation in a conversation with General Lemnitzer and Dowling on November 7 and concluded that what was needed was a program to call “Communist aggressors” to account. Rhee argued that if the United States would take a firm stand, the rest of the world would follow the American lead. Dowling concluded that Rhee was attempting to formulate “an action program,” but he did not feel that Rhee would act without prior consultation with CINCUNC. (Department of State, Central Files, 684A.86/11–856)