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

1080. General Lemnitzer and I met with President Rhee this morning at Chinhae2 to give him substance Deptel 892 June 19.3 Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense also present. I had sent word to President Rhee that we wished to discuss modernization US forces Korea and related actions, so he opened conversation by saying he hoped we brought him good news.

General Lemnitzer informed President Rhee of US decision re modern weapons for US forces Korea and read to him statement being made in MAC by US Rep at meeting this afternoon.4 He then [Page 460] pointed out modernization was lengthy process, but that program would mean greater capabilities US forces Korea. After outlining first steps to be taken for improvement ROK forces, i.e. additional jet aircraft, transport and communications facilities, and emphasizing resultant greater defensive power UN forces. General Lemnitzer said these actions would allow some reduction in manpower of ROK forces, thus easing financial burden on ROK Government and permitting greater degree economic development.

President Rhee seemed greatly pleased with report generally, and was obviously very happy that sub-paragraph 13d of Armistice Agreement would no longer “tie our hands” as he put it. He was resistant to idea of force reduction, however, saying in effect that this could not be done at present.

In conclusion, I summed up briefly actions outlined reftel, and arguments given therein, endeavoring to stress that improvements for ROK forces5 were dependent upon reduction in acting forces, and pointed to economic considerations involved. I left with President Rhee “talking paper”6 based on reftel.

There was no detailed discussion force reduction, and no figures thereon were mentioned, but Lemnitzer and Defense Minister agreed on staff study of actions which would flow from US decision on modernization.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 795.00/6–2157. Secret; Priority. Repeated to Tokyo with instructions to pass to CINCUNC.
  2. General Lemnitzer reported on this conversation in telegram FE 805492 from CINCUNC, June 21. He also noted President Rhee’s resistance to any program of reduction for ROK armed forces, “at least until more information was available to him regarding the magnitude and scope of the proposed modernization program, particularly for the ROK Army.” Lemnitzer added that he had had a subsequent conversation with Defense Minister Kim in Pusan, and that Kim had agreed to institute joint U.S.-ROK studies and plans for the reduction of the ROK Army. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 218, JCS Records, CCS 383.21 Korea (3–19–45)(2))
  3. Supra.
  4. See the editorial note, infra.
  5. The issue of improvements for the armed forces of the Republic of Korea came up more directly in the conversation which Deputy Assistant Secretary Jones had with Ambassador Yang on June 20 to inform the Ambassador of the step being taken in the MAC. Jones explained that only U.S. forces in Korea were to be modernized with atomic-capable weapons, and Ambassador Yang replied that he could not understand such a decision since he had been assured explicitly by Defense Department officials that, in due course, the Republic of Korea Army also would be equipped with such weapons. (Memorandum of conversation by Nes, June 20; Department of State, Central Files, 795.00/6–2057)
  6. Not found in Department of State files.