201. Memorandum of Discussion at the 311th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, January 31, 19571

[Here follows a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting.]

1. Evaluation of Alternative Military Programs for Korea (NSC 5514;2 NSC 5610; Memos for NSC from Executive Secretary, subject: “U.S. Objectives and Courses of Action in Korea”, dated October 12 and November 6, 1956;3 NSC Actions Nos. 1486, 1560, 1607 and 1624; NSC 5702; Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated January 30, 19574)

Mr. Cutler briefed the Council on the background of this agenda item, calling their attention in particular to the tabular summary of the four possible alternative military programs5 and to the Financial Appendix.6 He concluded his lengthy briefing of the Council by summarizing the four alternatives in terms of the financial support required of the United States in each case. (A copy of Mr. Cutler’s briefing note is filed in the minutes of the meeting.)7 He then requested the Director of Central Intelligence to comment briefly on the Korean order of battle. Mr. Dulles complied with this request, making use of a chart which provided the data on order of battle for both North Korea and the ROK as of the date of the Armistice (July 1953) and at present.

Upon the conclusion of Mr. Dulles’ briefing, Mr. Cutler called on Admiral Burke to present the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with respect to the alternative military programs for Korea. Admiral Burke [Page 393] indicated that the Chiefs of Staff felt that we must not only be ready for a possible aggression against the ROK from the north, but that we must also be prepared to deal with the possibility of internal disturbances in the Republic of Korea. In the light of these considerations, Admiral Burke believed that a reduction beyond certain limits of the force levels in the ROK would endanger South Korea. As the result of a considerable build-up in the North Korean armed forces, there was a definite shift in the power balance to the advantage of North Korea. This power shift had not yet reached a significant point, but the direction was plain. Admiral Burke noted that of course the North Koreans were violating the provisions of the Armistice, while we in turn were observing the Armistice. If we undertook to violate the Armistice, we could introduce into South Korea new and greatly improved weapons which would enable us to reduce over-all force levels.

Admiral Burke then reminded the Council that President Rhee was a very old man, who was engaged in running a “one-man democracy” at the present time. There was very likely to be chaos when Rhee died, and the Communists might at this juncture make a try for full control of Korea. Thus, since we feel that our forces in Korea must be ready for any contingency, the Joint Chiefs of Staff are of the opinion that Alternative B of NSC 5702 constitutes the most prudent program.

Mr. Cutler asked Admiral Burke if he would explain briefly to the members of the Council the nature of the “dual nuclear conventional capability” which is to become “standard” in the armed forces of the United States in the future. Admiral Burke replied that this term was to be defined as covering such weapons as “Honest John” rockets, 8-inch Howitzers, and missiles [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. Mr. Cutler commented that this was the essence of our problem.

Secretary Wilson put the question as to whether the Council was now going to make a definite decision as to which alternative to choose, or whether the Council was merely engaging in a discussion, after which things would wait for a while before a final decision was made. Secretary Wilson stated that he had a position with respect to a desirable military program for Korea which was essentially his own and which differed in some respects from the position of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He said, however, that he did agree with the proposal of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to reduce the number of active ROK divisions from 20 to 16. He would not, however, go so far as to reduce the ROK active divisions to 10. Such a move would be too sudden and would involve too great a dislocation.

Secretary Wilson went on to state his opinion that war was not going to start up again in Korea or places like that, because there [Page 394] would be insufficient advantage to the Communists in merely acquiring Korea at such a cost. He believed that we should certainly “get loose” from Korean-like situations, both in Korea and elsewhere in the world, in order that we might concentrate our resources and capabilities on more vital areas. Secretary Wilson continued with a statement that the introduction of our new weapons did involve a very serious psychological problem. He believed that it would be wisest to keep these new weapons for the time being in [less than 1 line of source text not declassified], since there would be more loss than gain for us if we should put these new weapons into Korea itself. While such problems were largely in the field of the Secretary of State, Secretary Wilson said he felt that he wished to give his own view for what it might be worth. At any rate, he concluded, he would begin to untangle the United States from its present situation vis-à-vis such areas as Korea. British and Commonwealth troops were all shortly to get out of Korea, and the United States would, of course, be left holding the bag.

Mr. Cutler then suggested that Secretary Dulles speak next, pointing out in so doing that Alternatives B and C were the likely ones that the United States would adopt if we should reach a decision to change our present program (Alternative A).

Secretary Dulles commenced his statement by pointing out that the choice of a military program in Korea involved two major problems. First, the matter of the internal situation within Korea, and secondly, the matter of our compliance with the terms of the Armistice, which involved our world position. He then went on to say that of course the real deterrent to a renewed Communist attack on South Korea was the nuclear power which the United States had [less than I line of source text not declassified] and our ability to use this power to destroy the bulk of Chinese Communist industry. Nevertheless, the situation in the Republic of Korea itself is such that the area could be lost through subversion rather than through external aggression if the United States were to take action which appeared to indicate that we were abandoning South Korea. The South Koreans, like many other nations in a similar situation, want visible evidence of military strength on site, even though we may feel that they should rely on our capacity for retaliation. To the South Koreans, our capability for massive retaliation is not immediately visible and always remains to some degree uncertain. It is the prevalence of such a point of view in large parts of the world which is causing us so much trouble with our military aid programs. In any event, a considerable reduction of visible military strength in South Korea would have very serious internal repercussions. The course of action which would provide the greatest reassurance to the South Koreans would doubtless be the introduction of atomic weaponry, even though such a move might be [Page 395] largely symbolic. If we followed such a course of action, the South Koreans might agree to the reduction of the levels of their own forces.

On the other hand, continued Secretary Dulles, this course of action would mark a departure from the terms of the Armistice; that is, if we were to put such weapons in Korea as are not there now— for example, Honest Johns. You could put in all the 8-inch Howitzers you wanted to, because they are already there, but the introduction of other new weapons would certainly be the occasion for a greatly stepped-up Communist propaganda campaign. More serious (since the Communist propaganda campaign was already on) would be the interpretation given to such a course of action by the neutral nations and by some of our allies, who would consider it an unjustified violation of the Armistice terms by the United States. Apropos of this point, Secretary Dulles alluded to a recent conversation with Duncan Sandys, the British Defense Minister. In a kind of a way, Secretary Dulles pointed out, the British face a problem in Germany not unlike the problem we face in Korea. For this reason, Secretary Dulles had thought that Sandys and British officials generally would be sympathetic to a proposal for the introduction of new weapons. Nevertheless, Sandys felt that to do this would constitute so extreme a violation of the Armistice terms as to make him personally doubt the wisdom of the proposal and to question whether the United Kingdom would be likely to support this course of action. Secretary Dulles added that Sandys had not categorically refused support for such a proposal, but had given him reason to doubt that such support would be forthcoming. While, said Secretary Dulles, there wasn’t the slightest doubt that the Communists have consistently violated the Armistice agreement, the evidence of violation is of such a character that the United States would find it difficult to make use of a great deal of this evidence. Accordingly, we might not be able to satisfy world opinion as to the scale of Communist violation of the Korean Armistice. While the United States would certainly not want to treat the Korean Armistice as wholly void, it might be possible to separate out paragraph 13–d and void its provisions.

In summary, concluded Secretary Dulles, from the standpoint of our Foreign Relations, avoiding the introduction of these new types of weapons while at the same time securing a reduction in the level of ROK forces, would obviously be the best solution. However, if the United States felt that it could not afford this course of action, Secretary Dulles indicated that he would choose to take the risks involved in a violation of the Armistice agreement rather than to elect a course of action which drastically reduced the levels of ROK military forces.

Secretary Wilson commented that a shift of four ROK divisions from an active to a reserve status would probably improve the ROK [Page 396] internal situation a little bit and, accordingly, save the United States a little money, but certainly not very much. It was, of course, possible that if the ROK force levels were reduced, the North Koreans would respond by reducing their forces. Perhaps the best thing was to start this reduction in a gradual way, so that the least protest would be aroused in South Korea.

The President indicated that he was extremely weary of the blackmail which seemed constantly to be practiced against the United States, but that he had a couple of questions that he wished now to put before the Council. He said he believed that all of us agreed that the danger of war does not arise from the intrinsic value to the Communists of the Korean peninsula, but rather derives from the prestige which the Communists would enjoy if they succeeded in destroying a nation (South Korea) set up and maintained by the United States. In short, South Korea had become a symbol throughout the world. Of course, if the South Koreans state that they wish to go Communist and do so, the practical harm to the United States would not amount to very much. Accordingly, the President said, he was not greatly worried about the internal situation in South Korea, but more concerned with what was necessary to deter an attack from North Korea.

Secretary Dulles observed that the pattern we face in Korea was also the pattern we faced in Formosa. The great danger seemed to be that unless we continued to pay the blackmail costs, the situation in Formosa might go to pot, especially if South Korea fell to the Communists first. There would be obvious repercussions in Japan likewise.

On the subject of blackmail, Secretary Wilson commented that the next time we pay it he would like to be sure for once that we got something in return.

Mr. Cutler stated that he believed the Council should try to look upon the present paper as illustrating ways and means of making savings in U.S. resources not only in Korea but elsewhere in the world. In these difficult areas the Council had already acted on Pakistan. Next week Iran would be before the Council for consideration. It was essential, however, not to overlook the injunction which the Council had given to the Planning Board to try to find, if possible or feasible, means to discover ways of saving U.S. resources. It appeared to Mr. Cutler that Secretary Wilson was prepared to go along with a reduction of the ROK active forces by four divisions. We should remember, however, that in this alternative (Alternative B) some of the savings which would result from the reduction in the number of active ROK divisions would be reduced by the added costs arising from the introduction of additional jet aircraft. After citing the relevant financial figures, Mr. Cutler speculated as to whether Alternative [Page 397] B would be acceptable to the South Koreans if jet aircraft were given to them instead of the new weapons for which they had been clamoring.

Admiral Burke said he doubted whether this substitution would be acceptable to the South Koreans, because what they really wanted was visible evidence of their ability to meet an attack. Admiral Burke agreed that there was no significant danger of an attack from North Korea at the present time; but if the ROKs came to feel that their military strength was going to be significantly reduced in the near future, it would be all the harder to get them to accept any further reductions later on.

Secretary Humphrey felt that Secretary Wilson had raised two important points to which the Council should give careful thought. In the first place, there was the question as to whether the Council was proposing to make a decision today, or whether the current discussion on military programs in Korea was exploratory in character and that no decision on a military program in Korea would be made until the Council was also ready to reach some decisions with respect to suitable military programs for other areas than Korea. It was Secretary Humphrey’s view that the Council must face up to the general problem of our military aid programs rather than to deal seriatim with individual countries. In any case, the Council must clearly realize that the United States cannot go on for another ten years, as it had for the past ten years, spending our resources on military aid programs currently in effect. Such a course would be suicidal for the United States. Accordingly, if we are going to change to a real “new look policy” for the world as a whole, the sooner we decided to do so, the better. Accordingly, he would recommend that the Council fit Korea into a general program which would notably reduce the size and expenditures for our military assistance programs world-wide. In other words, we must look this problem full in the face. The United States was rapidly being left with the task of defending the whole free world. We must decide, therefore, what kind of a defense of the free world we are prepared to make on the assumption that we alone must bear the costs. In Secretary Humphrey’s opinion, the answer was clear, and that we should depend on our massive retaliatory capability. Reliance on this capability was in his opinion the sole feasible means by which the United States could get itself in a position of being able to defend the free world. It was perfectly clear that the United Kingdom and France were not going to be able to give us significant help. So we must go it alone, and in so doing concentrate our resources on maintaining our retaliatory power rather than dissipating our strength in small amounts all over the world. Such dissipation of our powers might very well lose us our massive retaliatory capacity. In summary, therefore, Secretary Humphrey said he would [Page 398] recommend that the Council pigeonhole this agenda item until we could reach a decision involving the whole world as to how we should defend ourselves. After making the general decision, we could deal with the individual cases.

Mr. Cutler pointed out that the Council and the Planning Board had been trying to approach the general problem outlined by Secretary Humphrey by analyzing the situation in each of the so-called Prochnow countries.8 He went on to say that the Planning Board (and he subsequently changed “Planning Board” to “I” as more accurate) thought that if the Secretary of State could bring himself to swallow the pill of a significant U.S. violation of the Korean Armistice, the Joint Chiefs of Staff had put up a relatively attractive package in Alternative B. Moreover, adoption of Alternative B at this time might lead to reductions over and above the four divisions contemplated in Alternative B as proposed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Mr. Brundage 9 said that he had a significant point to make. As he understood it, Alternative B was a two-year program, while Alternatives C and D were spaced over a period of three years. Would it not be possible for the Council to decide to start with Alternative B and move later to Alternative C and still further reductions? In Mr. Brundage’s opinion the savings to be achieved by the adoption of Alternative B were not significant enough in themselves to be the stopping point in the reduction process.

With respect to the savings which might flow from the adoption of Alternative B, Dr. Flemming inquired whether it was proposed to devote the savings from the reduction in the military program to increasing the economic assistance which the United States would give to South Korea. Mr. Cutler replied that no increase in the level of economic aid was being proposed, because we had been informed that for a period at least the South Korean economy could not absorb additional economic aid. Secretary Wilson also registered strong opposition to any proposal to increase our economic assistance to South Korea by the way of any savings from a reduction in our military assistance program. [2-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]

Contrary to the proposals of Secretary Humphrey, Secretary Dulles expressed the hope that the Council could make some progress toward a solution of the South Korean situation without waiting to deal with the over-all situation with respect to our military assistance programs. He pointed out that four years ago basically we had agreed that our massive retaliatory capability was going to be the chief deterrent to war. Accordingly, our trouble is not, as Secretary Humphrey suggested, any lack of a basic policy, but perhaps [Page 399] stemmed from the fact that we have not applied our basic policy in the necessary way. In any event, we could not successfully deal with our situation if we suddenly and drastically reduced all our military assistance programs world-wide as the Secretary of the Treasury had suggested. Instead, we should deal with each country in terms of its merits and the peculiarities of its individual situation. It would be much too great a shock to make a world-wide decision to reduce and then proceed promptly to carry it out. We must deal certainly with the ROK situation in terms of a gradual rather than a sudden reduction for, after all, we are not sure that even the modest reduction set forth in Alternative B will not be too much of a shock for the South Koreans.

Secretary Humphrey replied that the point that he was really making is that a mere $65 million annually, which was the amount we could anticipate if Alternative B were adopted, was no great shakes. While he did not advocate drastic reductions all at once, he did believe that we should know where we were going ultimately before we started down any path.

The President indicated his sympathy with the position on this issue taken by Secretary Dulles and his belief that it was essential to apply a general principle to each particular country. Secretary Humphrey replied that he was not advocating the application of reductions all at once and all over the world. He did believe, however, that the National Security Council should agree on a generally reduced program of military assistance world-wide, and gradually apply this general program to one country after another until our objective of a general reduction in costs has been achieved.

In response to this proposal, Secretary Dulles commented briefly on the very great difficulty we would face in selling our friends and our allies on the point of sole reliance on the retaliatory capability of the United States in their defense against Communism. Secretary Humphrey repeated that he was not recommending that we now take action on a general reduction of our military assistance program, but that we agree on a plan of action; and certainly any plan which results in saving this country only $65 million a year is pretty nearly worthless. The savings must be a great deal larger, both in Korea and everywhere else in the world.

Secretary Wilson explained to the Council the difficulties which could be anticipated if we proposed a very sudden reduction in the force levels for Korea. He said he knew this by his own bitter experience. Secretary Humphrey still insisted that, at the very best, Alternative B represented a timid beginning in reducing the drain on U.S. resources.

Admiral Burke took the position that if we adopted Alternative B we might succeed in convincing the South Koreans that the United [Page 400] States had the military power on hand in South Korea to defend them and accordingly Alternative B might be the first step in a series of further reductions. He warned, however, lest we follow a course of action which might cause the South Koreans to lose confidence in our willingness and ability to defend them.

Secretary Humphrey argued that, after all, the United States had a few rights in the world and it was high time that we gave some thought to our own rights and interests. Secretary Dulles immediately pointed out that we were not defending countries like South Korea out of any particular affection for them, but because it was in the national interest of the United States to defend them. He repeated that we could not deprive these countries of all the visible on-site signs of their capability to defend themselves. However, if we have got to risk a course of action which will involve some kind of real shock to the world, he would rather endure the shock as a result of the introduction of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] into Korea than by drastically reducing ROK force levels. Secretary Dulles said he believed this all the more valid inasmuch as reliance on [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] will have to become the long-term policy and program of the United States. It was not improbable that we could persuade at least some of our allies to accept this proposition. Secretary Humphrey commented that this was certainly the kind of program he felt the United States should embark on, but in any case let us not stop at a reduction of only four divisions in the active forces of the Republic of Korea.

At this point in the discussion the Secretary of State rose from the table and said that he was obliged to leave the meeting in order to keep an appointment with King Saud.10 Mr. Cutler then quickly called attention to the need for Council discussion on the next item of the agenda, namely, the Indian request for withdrawal of funds from the International Monetary Fund, and invited the Secretary of the Treasury to make his report while Secretary Dulles could still hear it. (Discussion of the Indian request will be found under Item 2 of this memorandum.)

Resuming discussion of the Korean alternatives, the President observed that behind all the remarks that Secretary Humphrey had made relative to the costs of our military assistance programs and also the use that India was likely to make of funds withdrawn from the International Monetary Fund, lay our estimate of how acute was our difficulty in trying to keep the free world free. Accordingly, the level of our military and other assistance to free nations was not merely a matter of how much the United States could afford to provide [Page 401] these nations by way of assistance. If we lose important areas of the free world to Communism the repercussions on ourselves would be very grave.

Secretary Humphrey repeated his views on the very serious financial situation that the United States might soon face. We are now somewhat concerned with inflation, but things could change very abruptly, and we may soon be worrying about deflation. Secretary Humphrey insisted that he could see certain signs indicating the deflationary process already, and he warned that things could shift very quickly if the people of the United States lost confidence in their government. To this, the President said that we would have to decide which we were most frightened of at the present time—international Communism or our own internal situation. Secretary Humphrey answered that in point of fact for the last four years we have been wrestling with the attempt to find the correct balance between these two dangers. The President said that he certainly agreed that we could not approach this problem from any one single point of view. Our only course was to seek the correct balance between our internal demands and the demands of our military defense. Secretary Humphrey warned that in his opinion we could not take much more out of our economy than we are taking now. Indeed, he felt we could not afford to support our present military programs at their present levels. We have simply got to find some way of getting more defense for fewer dollars.

Secretary Wilson said that he strongly supported the gradual approach to the reduction in our military assistance programs and, as a matter of fact, he for one was not prepared to sneer at a $65 million annual savings. The President interrupted to say that he was a little astonished to find Secretary Humphrey speaking of $65 million in such an offhand fashion. Secretary Wilson went on to say that he was much troubled at what the country was going to face in defense costs in Fiscal Year 1959. He counseled that we go carefully bit by bit.

In order, said Mr. Cutler, that the Council should not lose momentum on the solution of these problems, he would suggest that the Planning Board now be directed by the Council to prepare a revised policy on South Korea, the military portion of which would be based on Alternative B but which would include plans and suggestions for a possible further reduction in the ROK active divisions from four in the direction of ten. Secretary Wilson agreed that it would be wise to adopt Alternative B, while at the same time exploring the possibilities of further reductions. He could certainly go along with this recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff if the Secretary of State were not too worried about this course of action; but he believed that we should not talk to President Rhee about reducing the [Page 402] active divisions of the South Korean army from 20 to 10. The President merely commented that Rhee must be an idiot to want to support 20 active divisions. He simply was unable to understand Rhee’s reasoning. The Vice President commented that the $65 million annual saving was in a way more significant than the mere dollars would indicate, because it might pave the way for other and greater savings, both in Korea and elsewhere in the world. Its real significance was in the establishment of a pattern of reductions and savings.

Secretary Humphrey said he wanted a footnote to be added to indicate that he certainly did not disdain $65 million (laughter).

The National Security Council: 11

Noted and discussed the draft report on the subject contained in NSC 5702, prepared by the NSC Planning Board; in the light of a study prepared by the Joint Chiefs of Staff pursuant to NSC Action No. 1607–b (transmitted by the reference memorandum of October 12, 1956), the comments of the Secretary of Defense (transmitted by the reference memorandum of November 6, 1956), the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on NSC 5702 (transmitted by the reference memorandum of January 30, 1957), and an oral briefing on the subject by the Director of Central Intelligence.
Directed the NSC Planning Board to prepare for subsequent Council consideration a new statement of policy on Korea, to supersede NSC 5514, incorporating therein a military program for U.S. and ROK forces in Korea based upon the initial adoption of Alternative B in NSC 5702, with planning for gradual further reductions in ROK forces in the longer range.

[Here follow agenda items 2–4.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Gleason on February 1.
  2. Regarding NSC 5514, NSC 5610, the October 12 memorandum by Lay, and the NSC Actions, see footnotes 25, Document 196.
  3. See footnote 1, Document 172 and footnote 1, Document 179.
  4. See footnote 1, Document 199.
  5. Reference is to a two-page tabular summary of NSC 5702, prepared by the NSC Staff, circulated to the NSC Planning Board on January 16 under cover of a note from the Director of the NSC Secretariat. (Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5702 Series)
  6. Not printed.
  7. The minutes of all National Security Council meetings held during the Eisenhower administration are in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 273, Records of the National Security Council, Official Meeting Minutes File.
  8. Korea, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Vietnam, and the Republic of China.
  9. Percival F. Brundage, Director of the Bureau of the Budget.
  10. King Saud of Saudi Arabia arrived in Washington on January 29 for a State visit.
  11. Paragraphs a–b constitute NSC Action No. 1660, approved by President Eisenhower on February 4. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)