196. National Security Council Report1

NSC 5702

NOTE BY THE EXECUTIVE SECRETARY TO THE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL ON EVALUATION OF ALTERNATIVE MILITARY PROGRAMS FOR KOREA

REFERENCES

  • A. NSC 55142
  • B. NSC 56103
  • C. Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, subject: “U.S. Objectives and Courses of Action in Korea”, dated October 12, 19564
  • D. NSC Actions Nos. 1486, 1560, 1607 and 16245
  • The enclosed draft report on the subject, prepared by the NSC Planning Board, is transmitted herewith for consideration by the National Security Council at its meeting on Thursday, January 24, 1957.

A Financial Appendix is also attached for the information of the Council.6

The enclosure is intended as the first step in the review by the Planning Board of the scope and allocation of military and non-military aid for Korea called for by NSC Action No. 1624–c. In the light of Council discussion of the enclosure as to the choice among the alternatives, the Planning Board will subsequently prepare for Council consideration appropriate revisions in NSC 5514, “U.S. Objectives and Courses of Action in Korea”, in accordance with NSC Action No. 1624–c.

James S. Lay, Jr.
7
[Page 375]

[Enclosure]

EVALUATION OF ALTERNATIVE MILITARY PROGRAMS FOR KOREA

General Considerations

1. The Republic of Korea depends on U.S. support for its military defense, but does not consider the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Joint Policy Declaration sufficient assurance that the United States will in fact defend South Korea in the event of an attack from the North. Koreans remember the U.S. withdrawal from South Korea shortly prior to the attack in 1950, and believe that sizeable U.S. combat forces and strong ROK military forces must be maintained in South Korea to deter a new attack by Communist forces and to assure the defense of the area in case of attack.

2. With little complaint, the Koreans have made heavy sacrifices, in the form of taxation and conscription, in support of their military forces. The Korean will to resist is universally high; indeed the Korean political and military leaders would have continued or reopened hostilities with North Korea had not U.S. officials frequently reminded them that U.S. logistical support, essential to successful military action, would not be forthcoming. However, the Korean will to resist can be expected to remain high only as long as the Korean people and their leaders are convinced that the United States is supporting them fully and that they have the military capacity to resist.

3. However, Korean faith in the U.S. defense commitment is not necessarily related to any particular U.S. or ROK force level, provided the South Koreans believe that joint U.S.-ROK capabilities are sufficient to give assurance of an intent to resist aggression and to permit effective outside assistance to be brought to bear.

4. If ROK forces are placed on the 3-year rotation basis in the near future, it may be difficult to maintain present active strength unless the number of personnel deciding to make a career of military service increases greatly. The ROK Army has already returned most of its personnel with combat experience to civilian life and currently is having almost no success in persuading junior officers and enlisted men to make a career of the military service. The lack of a core of experienced professional soldiers in the ROK Army places severe limitations on its future ability to use and maintain the more advanced and complex weapons which soon will be indispensable for effective military operations.

5. In November, 1954 the United States and the ROK initialed an Agreed Minute in which it was stated that as the training load [Page 376]diminishes and ROK trained reserve strengths are attained, the total number of active ROK military personnel will be adjusted according-

6. Korean confidence in the U.S. commitment to the ROK will also be affected by the extent of U.S. economic aid available for economic development. The Korean economy is recovering from war devastation, but only limited progress is being made in economic development; in the long run this could pose a serious threat to political stability. A commitment to continue the current level of economic development aid or an increase therein would probably be considered by the Koreans as a good indication that the U.S. Government has confidence in the future of the ROK. While a simultaneous major reduction in both economic development and military assistance to the ROK would no doubt have very serious and adverse repercussions in Korea, particularly since the Koreans believe that Communist capabilities have been increasing since the Armistice was signed, a military reduction under the applicable proviso of the Agreed Minute could probably be compensated in part, but only in part, by a long-term economic aid commitment or an increase in economic aid.

7. ROK and U.S. military forces in South Korea are a major symbol of U.S. determination to resist further Communist expansion in the Far East. Other symbols include U.S. commitments in SEATO, the Republic of China and the Philippines; U.S. aid to non-Communist Asian countries; U.S. military capabilities and commitments in the Taiwan area, the Philippines, Japan and Okinawa; and the fact of U.S. participation in the Korean war. Moreover, the Free World through the Sixteen Power Declaration and UN Command in Korea is committed to resist renewal of Communist aggression against the ROK.

8. The objective of the Communists continues to be to gain control over the entire Korean peninsula. They probably will not resort to force to obtain this objective, at least so long as the United States retains forces in South Korea and remains committed to the defense of the ROK.8 On the other hand, the Communists almost surely will not yield in any significant respect in maintaining their control over North Korea, thus continuing a situation of tension and instability. Although the Communists might reduce their active forces in Korea following any major reduction in ROK forces, they would retain the capability quickly to rebuild their strength to present levels by the mobilization of trained reserves and by the introduction of Communist forces from outside Korea.

[Page 377]

Statement of Alternatives

9. The remainder of this report will evaluate the probable political, economic and military consequences of the following four alternative military programs for the Republic of Korea. The term “dual conventional-nuclear weapons,” as used in this statement of alternatives and the following evaluation does not include storage of nuclear warheads in Korea.

Alternative A is the present military program, consisting of the following forces as currently equipped:

(1)
20 active and 10 reserve ROK Army Divisions;
(2)
3 ROK jet fighter-bomber squadrons in training, and plans for converting the 3 remaining ROK fighter squadrons into jet squadrons;
(3)
1 ROK Marine Division and coastal Navy;
(4)
2 U.S. Divisions, and 3 fighter-bomber squadrons.

Alternative B (JCS minimum military requirements over the next two years reported to the NSC on October 12, 1956) would involve the following changes in Alternative A:

(1)
Providing U.S. forces in Korea with dual conventional nuclear weapons;
(2)
Converting 4 of the 20 active ROK divisions into reserve divisions, and converting the 3 remaining conventional ROK fighter squadrons into jet squadrons (making a total of 6 jet squadrons).

Alternative C would involve the following changes in Alternative A:

(1)
Converting 10 of the 20 active ROK divisions into reserve divisions over a 3-year period;
(2)
Providing remaining active ROK forces with additional limited dual conventional-nuclear weapons of types already in Korea9 and increased training in the use of these weapons; and converting the 3 remaining conventional ROK fighter squadrons into jet squadrons;
(3)
Providing U.S. forces in Korea with additional limited dual conventional-nuclear weapons of types already in Korea, and increased training in the use of these weapons. ’

Alternative D would involve:

(1)
Converting 10 of the 20 active ROK divisions into reserve divisions over a three-year period;
(2)
Providing ROK forces with jet air strength (under present conditions approximately 12 squadrons of fighters and fighter-bombers) sufficient generally to offset North Korean air strength; and providing the ROK Army with equipment comparable to that of the North Korean Army, which under present circumstances would involve [Page 378]measures such as an increase in artillery strength but not the provision of dual conventional-nuclear weapons;
(3)
Providing U.S. forces in Korea with dual conventional-nuclear weapons.

Evaluation of Alternative A

Political and Psychological

10. Continuation of the ROK military establishment and U.S. forces in Korea at present levels would continue to satisfy the ROK leaders of U.S. intentions to defend the ROK. This involves no violation of the Korean Armistice Agreement. Although present U.S. programs involve replacement of obsolete equipment, the ROK leaders want an army and an air force at least equivalent in size and equipment to Communist forces deployed in North Korea, and they would continue to press for such improvements.

11. U.S. allies in Asia would interpret this policy as an indication of continued U.S. determination to maintain a strong anti-Communist position in Asia. The Asian neutrals would continue to contend that U.S. policy misinterprets the real threat to Asian stability and security by over-emphasis on military aid and under-emphasis on economic aid.

12. The Communists would continue to believe that the United States would commit its forces to defend the ROK.

Economic

13. The South Korean economy would probably be in trouble today even if there were no ROK military force. It seems clear, however, that the need for very large sums of local currency for this force has (1) contributed to the very heavy inflationary pressures which divert businessmen from productive enterprises to speculation, (2) forced a larger use of economic aid for military purposes, and (3) by requiring heavy imports, promoted artificially high levels of consumption. Local currency costs are increasing and will continue in future years to increase due to greater maintenance and replacement needs to keep the ROK military force in top condition, increased food prices, particularly rice, and higher military pay. The future may bring greater pressure on the end-use of local currency generation as between military and investment to the detriment of the latter unless total economic assistance is increased. So long as present military programs are continued, therefore, it is likely that there will be no acceleration in the rate of Korean economic development and thus no reduction in South Korean unemployment and no prospect of an assumption by the ROK of a greater share of its military and economic support. The annual requirement for U.S. aid is, therefore, [Page 379]growing rather than diminishing. The cost of ROK forces, however, is only a fraction of the cost of equivalent U.S. forces.

Military

14. This alternative precludes complete modernization of U.S. forces in Korea. U.S. units in Korea cannot be reorganized to conform with the organizational structure of other comparable U.S. units, which are acquiring a dual conventional-nuclear capability. As a result, U.S. forces in Korea are forced to adhere to certain outmoded tactical concepts. This has an adverse effect upon the morale of troops assigned to Korea and denies the most efficient and effective utilization of U.S. military manpower.

15. The Republic of Korea Army, with 20 active and 10 reserve Army divisions and other listed forces, would be capable of maintaining internal security. ROK and U.S. forces in Korea would be capable of resisting aggression by North Korea alone. A military force of this strength would also be a deterrent to any Communist attack unless such an attack were part of an over-all Communist plan for world-wide military operations. Such a force, with limited U.S. air, naval and logistic support, could conduct a successful holding operation against an attack by those North Korean and Chinese Communist forces now estimated to be in North Korea. Against the combined Chinese Communist forces now in Korea, Chinese Communist forces immediately available in Manchuria and Northeast China and the North Korean forces, the forces would be incapable of conducting a sustained defense without prompt military assistance from the United States. The small ROK Air Force is capable only of limited air support for ground operations. Its aircraft strength is markedly inferior to that of the North Korean Air Force.

Evaluation of Alternative B

Political and Psychological

16. The ROK would almost certainly object to a cut of approximately 20 percent in their active military force levels regardless of a simultaneous modernization of U.S. forces in Korea to include dual purpose weapons. A 20 percent cut in the ROK Army could have sharp effects within the ROK if it were interpreted as merely an initial step in U.S. reductions in the Far East. However, these effects would be somewhat reduced by an increase in U.S. military capabilities in Korea. Modernization of U.S. forces would lead to increased ROK pressure for modernization of their forces. ROK objections to a 20 percent cut in their force levels might be further reduced if some of the funds saved in military aid were switched to economic aid [Page 380]programs. This would help meet the ROK objection of increased economic hardship and additional unemployment resulting from military force reductions.

17. Our Asian allies’ assessment of U.S. policy and intentions will depend on over-all U.S. policy and military posture in Asia as well as on changes in levels of U.S. defense aid to South Korea. On balance, our Asian allies would approve any modernization of U.S. forces in Korea reconcilable with the Armistice Agreement. They would interpret such action as an indication of continued U.S. determination to resist Communist advances in Asia. However, if “modernization” were to be carried to a point which they would consider a significant violation of the Armistice Agreement, there would be adverse reactions. In Japan there would be a particularly serious reaction to the equipping of U.S. forces in Korea with what would be regarded as atomic weapons.

18. The United States would be strongly censured for violation of the Armistice Agreement by the Swiss and Swedish members of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission, and by many of the signatories of the Joint Declaration, as well as by Asian neutrals. These immediate reactions would weaken the U.S. position substantially in the United Nations and in relations with allies and neutrals alike.

19. The Communists would react to the introduction of any additional types of dual purpose weapons by launching a major propaganda campaign which would include charges that the United States was violating the Armistice, was seeking to increase tensions in the Far East, and was planning to use again atomic bombs on Asians. The Communists might supplement their propaganda campaign and seek to increase pressure on the United States to withdraw its forces from South Korea by withdrawing the Chinese Communist troops from North Korea, which they could do without critically weakening their military position. The Soviets may introduce dual purpose weapons into North Korea, either overtly or covertly.

Economic

20. The direct financial savings which would result from reduction of any given number of ROK divisions is at best a rough estimate, since little information from the field is available. On the basis of past budgets such savings are averaged for this purpose at $9 million per division in dollars and $7.5 million in hwan. This figure of $16.5 million may be overstated since it does not include the cost of conversion of active to reserve divisions. Conversely, this figure may be understated since it does not take into account the current sharply rising trend in maintenance costs. However, using this figure, Alternative B would result in gross financial savings of $65 million ($35 [Page 381]million in MAP, $30 million in local currency support). This estimate of savings does not take account of the cost of providing U.S. forces with dual purpose weapons, which are to be purchased in any case.

Military

21. This course of action enables U.S. forces to be reorganized in accordance with latest approved doctrines. It also authorizes the equipping of these forces with modern equipment and with weapons possessing both a conventional and atomic capability. This would result in the most efficient and effective utilization of U.S. military manpower in Korea, and would bolster the morale of U.S. troops assigned to Korea.

22. The Republic of Korea Army, with 16 active divisions and 14 reserve divisions, would be capable of maintaining internal security. Provided the present U.S. forces in Korea are modernized and the 14 reserve divisions reach and maintain their strength and training goals, the forces projected would be superior in both offensive and defensive capabilities to the North Korean forces alone. Therefore, they would be capable of successfully resisting North Korean aggression. They would provide a very strong deterrent to combined North Korean-Chinese Communist aggression unless this aggression was part of a much broader Communist plan. They would be capable, with limited U.S. outside support, of conducting a successful holding operation against the combined Chinese Communist forces and North Korean Army forces now estimated to be in North Korea. Should the Communists exercise their estimated reinforcing capability with Chinese Communist troops immediately available from Manchuria and Northeast China, the forces considered under this alternative could not maintain a successful resistance without immediate and substantial U.S. military assistance.

Evaluation of Alternative C

Political and Psychological

23. The reaction of the ROK leaders to this alternative would be more vigorous than that under Alternative B. ROK objections to this cut in their ground forces might be somewhat reduced if some of the funds saved in military aid were switched to economic aid programs. As under Alternative B, this would help meet the ROK objection of increased economic hardship and additional unemployment resulting from military force reductions. ROK leaders would probably argue that North Korea would still be superior in the air and that the 50 percent reduction in active ROK ground force levels would not be fully compensated by modernization [4 lines of source text not declassified]. [Page 382]The ROK leaders would seek to delay reduction of their ground forces to agreed levels and there would be increased danger that they might undertake unilateral action to breach the Armistice before the reductions could become effective.10

24. This Alternative would not violate the Armistice Agreement. The reaction of Asian neutrals and certain political groups in other non-Communist Asian countries, particularly Japan, would be adverse but not as strong as in Alternative B above.

25. The Communists would probably react less sharply than in Alternative B above, but the possibility would remain that they would introduce dual-capability weapons into North Korea.

Economic

26. Potential direct gross savings, based on the same calculation as under Alternative B, would be $165 million annually ($90 million in MAP and $75 million in local currency support). Initially, savings in military aid would be partly offset by the cost of providing the ROK with additional equipment and weapons, including dual-capability weapons. When a program of troop reduction and matériel and weapons build-up is completed, annual maintenance costs should be reduced as compared with existing maintenance costs.

27. The savings in local currency support could be employed in a variety of ways toward greater economic development of Korea, or could be retained by the United States as savings, or could be divided between the two purposes. In the first case, after a short period of possible labor dislocation, greater than now exists, development in Korea might proceed at a somewhat faster pace than now and might in the long run reduce the need for external economic assistance while building an economically stronger Korea.

Military

28. This alternative, as an objective for ROK forces, after completion of Alternative B, is feasible. The continued limiting of the modernization of U.S. forces would have the same disadvantages as are stated in paragraph 14.

29. The forces, as proposed under this alternative, would be capable of maintaining internal security. They would be capable of resisting North Korean aggression. They would be capable, with U.S. air, naval and logistic support greater than that required under Alternative B, of conducting a successful holding operation against the [Page 383]combined Chinese Communist forces and North Korean Army forces now estimated to be in North Korea. Should the Communists exercise their estimated reinforcing capability with Chinese Communist troops immediately available from Manchuria and Northeast China, the forces considered under this alternative could not maintain a successful resistance without immediate and substantial U.S. military assistance.

Evaluation of Alternative D

Political and Psychological

30. Although pleased by the increase in air strength, ROK leaders would not consider that the acquisition of an air force roughly comparable to that of North Korea would offset the reduction of ground forces. ROK capability and temptation of breaching the Armistice would be increased over Alternative A.11 As under Alternative C, increased economic aid would partly, but only partly, mitigate the adverse ROK reaction to reduction in ground force levels.

31. U.S. allies in Asia would probably react favorably to this program and would probably ask for similar increases in their own air forces. The reaction of the Asian neutrals would be similar to that described in Alternative B above.

32. Communist reaction would be similar to that described in Alternative B above, and in addition, the Soviet Union would probably seek to increase the capabilities of the North Korean armed forces, especially their air strength.

Economic

33. The savings would be similar to Alternative C, although on the dollar side they would be offset by the cost of providing additional jet air strength rather than providing dual-capability weapons.

Military

34. Alternative D, decreasing ROK ground capabilities and increasing ROK Air Force capabilities, is not consistent with present U.S. military strategy in the Far East which provides for indigenous ground forces to be supported initially by U.S. air and naval forces.

35. These forces, together with modernized U.S. forces, would be capable of maintaining internal security. Because of the additional air [Page 384]strength available, these forces would be better equipped to deal with the initial air battle stages of a surprise Communist attack and could resist an attack by North Korean forces alone. They would be able with limited U.S. air, naval and logistic support to conduct a successful holding operation against attack by those North Korean and Chinese Communist forces now estimated to be in North Korea.

  1. Source: Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5702 Series. Top Secret. Copies were sent to the Secretary of the Treasury, the Special Assistant to the President for Disarmament, the Director of the Bureau of the Budget, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Director of Central Intelligence.
  2. Document 24.
  3. Entitled “Report by the Interdepartmental Committee on Certain U.S. Aid Programs,” August 3, 1956. (Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5610 Series)
  4. See footnote 1, Document 172.
  5. Regarding NSC Action No. 1486, see vol. x, p. 62, footnote 14. Regarding NSC Action No. 1560, see vol. XIX, p. 310, footnote 5. Regarding NSC Action No. 1607, see footnote 4, Document 169. Regarding NSC Action No. 1624, see vol. x, p. 133, footnote 14. The record copies of all of the NSC Actions cited here are in Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council.
  6. Not printed.
  7. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
  8. Footnote in the source text [2 lines of source text] not declassified; see Document 159.
  9. Thus excluding such weapons as the 280 mm. gun, the Honest John, Corporal and Redstone. [Footnote in the source text.]
  10. CIA would add at this point: However, Rhee and the ROK military leaders generally recognize that the ROK cannot achieve unification alone and that the chances of embroiling the United States through unilateral action would be slight. Accordingly, the ROK would probably acquiesce in the proposals and continue to refrain from unilateral military action. [Footnote in the source text.]
  11. CI A would add at this point: However, Rhee and the ROK military leaders generally recognize that the ROK cannot achieve unification alone and that the chances of embroiling the United States through unilateral action would be slight. Accordingly, the ROK would probably acquiesce in the proposals and continue to refrain from unilateral military action. [Footnote in the source text.]