238. Letter From President Rhee to President Eisenhower1

Dear Mr. President: Thank you for your letter of July 192 which I received this week through Ambassador Dowling.

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While I am aware that there are economic considerations that make a reduction in our armed forces desirable, I seriously question the wisdom of doing so at this time.

Before reaching this conclusion, I called in our Chiefs of Staff, quietly and separately, and they are agreed on the following points:

First, we do not know what modern weapons are coming, nor how many, nor when. Until we have this information, we cannot evaluate the implications of a reduction in our armed forces.

Second, we do not know whether the modernization program will apply equally to the United States Forces in Korea and to the Korean Forces. We have heard that the United States contemplates modernizing only one or more United States Divisions in Korea. Our people are reluctant to believe that the United States will equip only American troops with modern weapons while the troops of her allies in Korea will continue to have obsolete and outmoded weapons and equipment. We have been fighting shoulder to shoulder against a common enemy who is bent upon our destruction and if the United States were now to discriminate in the matter of armaments, please think of the adverse effect it would have, both militarily and psychologically.

It is a tragedy indeed when Asian people and countries turn against America. This must not happen in Korea where the friendly sentiment of the people of America provides one of the strongest bulwarks against the further spread of Communism.

With reference to the Mutual Defense Treaty between our two countries, we are forever grateful for this assurance that America will come to our aid when aggression threatens us. The Communist Chinese are an increasing menace to our security and as long as they are in ruthless control of the northern half of our country we cannot attain a unified, free and independent country which is the goal the United Nations has accepted for Korea.

Added to these concerns is our mounting fear of renewed Japanese expansion. We have reported to you and to your Secretary of State that Japan claims that 85% of the property of Korea belongs to the Japanese. Thus far the United States has done nothing to make the Japanese withdraw this preposterous claim though it is a flagrant violation of the terms of the Peace Treaty.

Moreover, encouragement is being given to Japan’s ambitions to have hegemony of all of Asia, and the Japanese are becoming more and more confident that they will once again gain control of other countries in the Pacific area and America’s leadership of free Asia will be lost.

The consequences would be disastrous for us. Under America’s leadership and with the help and support of the American people, our people have been able to face these past years of trial and stress [Page 480] with a growing determination to resist aggression and keep their hard-won freedom. They are aware, as you and I are, that the dangers to their security have not lessened, and they know that to deter our enemies Korea must be militarily and economically strong.

If we remain firm in our resolve to guard against renewed aggression and unify Korea, I am confident we will succeed, and the victory will be a victory for all the free nations of the world as well as for your country and mine.

Sincerely yours,

Syngman Rhee
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, International File. No classification marking.
  2. Document 231.