186. Letter From President Eisenhower to President Rhee1

Dear Mr. President: I have read with great interest your letter of November 16 [15], 1956,2 and have considered most carefully the suggestions you have made. I share your views on the importance of international justice for all states, large and small, and the right of self-determination.

It is impossible for me to accept, however, the thesis that because grave violations of these principles have occurred we should now abandon the position that outlawing the use of force is a means of bringing about world peace.

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On the contrary, this is the very moment when the potential of the United Nations as an instrument of world opinion has been demonstrated.

In the recent developments in Eastern Europe we now see cracks in the Soviet Empire. The gallant Hungarian people have shown that the spirit of freedom is still alive, despite years of Communist oppression. I am convinced that moral force brought to bear on the Soviet Union through the United Nations will assist to an ever increasing degree in moderating and ultimately bringing to an end Soviet oppression. I believe that these moral forces can bring nearer the day of unification and freedom in Korea also.

In the present crises, there have been terrible injustices and sufferings. War, which is itself an instrument of injustice, is not the remedy. We continue to look to the United Nations as providing the best alternative to global war and the disaster to victor and vanquished alike which would follow in this day of modern weapons. The actions which the free world must, therefore, pursue should be directed toward supporting and strengthening the United Nations so that it may secure justice and peace through law.

May I take up, now, with the utmost frankness your views on expelling the Soviet Union from the United Nations and then reorganizing that body. This course of action has been suggested by others during the past few weeks and has been thoroughly considered.

Although I fully recognize that on numerous occasions the Soviet Union has been guilty of defying every principle of the Charter of the United Nations, we must realize that as a practical matter, the veto power of the Soviet Union would prevent its expulsion. Instead of a new organization, I believe the world should work to strengthen the United Nations so that it can effectively impose its collective will for peace.

Let me assure you that neither the United States Government nor the American people have any illusions whatsoever regarding the nature and objectives of Communist imperialism. The United States has assisted the free countries in developing and maintaining their political, economic and military strength to thwart the Communist objective of world domination. We have clearly demonstrated our willingness to make use of force as a last resort in individual and collective self-defense against aggression. These are times of grave world tension, in which we in the free world must act with calmness and high principle. I have, therefore, welcomed the manner in which you have encouraged a calm resoluteness on the part of your people and your military establishment.

I am pleased that you have felt free to write to me on a confidential and personal basis, and I do not plan to give any publicity to our correspondence. I would like to suggest that you treat our communication [Page 356] in the same way so that we may be at liberty to exchange views from time to time with complete frankness. Sincerely,3

  1. Source: Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204, Eisenhower/Dulles Correspondence with Rhee. Confidential. The text of this letter was sent to Seoul in telegram 376, November 23, for delivery to President Rhee. The telegram indicated that the signed original would follow by pouch. Ambassador Dowling reported in telegram 513, November 27, that he had delivered the letter to President Rhee that morning, and that Rhee, after reading the letter, commented that he supported the policy outlined in the message but remained skeptical that Soviet leaders were capable of responding to moral forces. Copies of both telegrams are ibid.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Printed from an unsigned copy.