223. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Korea1

892. Joint State–Defense message for Ambassador Dowling and General Lemnitzer. The President is convinced that a substantial reduction [Page 458] of Korean forces is essential to help the economic situation in Korea.

In view U.S. Government decision on modernization U.S. forces Korea and early action to be taken in MAC most important President Rhee be approached shortly in advance MAC statement but not far enough in advance for possible leak to Korean press prior to MAC statement, to inform him contents and time release MAC statement. After informing Rhee of above, gain his acceptance reduction of ROK forces by explaining plans for providing United States forces with more modern equipment.

This matter considered of such importance President proposes, if necessary to achieve agreement, that General Lemnitzer remain after 1 July change of command in capacity special representative of Secretary of Defense.

The following are suggested for use in your presentation:

Statement will be made in MAC shortly on UNC policy with respect being relieved obligations under 13d of Armistice Agreement.
U.S. firmly committed defense ROK against any renewal Communist aggression and to peaceful reunification Korea.
U.S. retaliatory power is a large element in maintaining security ROK.
Necessary re-equip U.S. forces to take advantage more modern weapons and insure U.S. capability meet its obligations. To do this following steps have been decided upon:
U.S. forces will be provided with new weapons including certain ones of dual capability. If questioned you should say these will not include at this time weapons [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] such as the Honest John and the 280mm cannon but will include aircraft capable of carrying atomic bombs.
ROK air strength will be improved through providing jet aircraft for the second wing of ROK fighter-bombers. Ground force equipment will be improved through provision of more transport and communications. This U.S. commitment is dependent on acceptance by ROK proposed reduction of ground forces.
The modernization of U.S. forces and the improvements for ROK forces will strengthen the UNC deterrent position Korea, its defensive combat capabilities, fire power and over-all effectiveness.
Present level ROK forces imposes tremendous drain and burden on Korean economy and resources. Reduction ROK forces necessary to permit greater emphasis economic development and further progress toward viability.
U.S. Government convinced benefits to economy resulting from initial force reduction proposed will in fact strengthen over-all ROK position.

President Eisenhower realizes this will be delicate and difficult negotiation. He does not wish you to give Rhee ultimatum but to use your best judgment as to most persuasive way of obtaining his consent to a substantial reduction of present army forces. For your background information four divisions with no addition to the present 10 reserve divisions by end of U.S. FY 58 is the minimum reduction President Eisenhower is willing to accept now. President feels that with conditions remaining the same, a further reduction may ultimately be made to 11 active divisions including Marines and 12 to 15 reserve divisions but does not want you to press for this at this time. We would prefer not adding to the reserve on account of this deactivation but would apply the 2 to 1 ratio to later reductions.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 795.00/6–1857. Secret; Niact; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Nes, Parsons, and Robertson and cleared in draft by Secretary Dulles, in the Department of Defense by Admiral Radford and Assistant Secretary Sprague, and in the White House by Cutler. Also sent niact to Tokyo with instructions to pass to CINCUNC.

    According to a memorandum from Leonhart to Bowie, June 20, the language of the telegram was worked out in a “round-robin” telephone call among Dulles, Radford, Cutler, Robertson, and Sprague. A June 17 note by Cutler indicated that, after formulation, the “RobertsonRadford” draft was sent to President Eisenhower for approval. Cutler ascribed to Dulles the proposal to ask Rhee to agree to a reduction of South Korean ground forces “to about 10 active divisions”. Eisenhower directed that the message contain background information for Dowling and Lemnitzer and indications that they could exercise some flexibility in reaching an agreement with Rhee. Cutler noted that Eisenhower did not want an ultimatum to be presented to Rhee. The memorandum by Leonhart is cited in footnote 6, Supra; a copy of the note by Cutler is in the Eisenhower Library, Staff Secretary Records.