8. Letter From President Eisenhower to President Rhee1
Dear Mr. President; There is much food for thought in the views which you have expressed in your letter of December 29, 1954.2 And because we all respect your judgment about the problems facing Korea, we have given most careful consideration to all that you have said.
Your letter makes it clear that you feel that Korea is caught between the threat of Communist aggression and a danger of renewed efforts by the Japanese to dominate Korea. In response, I want to assure you that it is the policy of the United States to do everything within our power to preserve the independence of the Republic of Korea. What the United States and other nations have done in the past few years, and are pledged to do in the future, should also serve to reassure you and the Korean people.
When the Armistice was concluded in Korea, the Sixteen Nations who fought side by side with your own forces in repelling the aggression issued a Declaration3 which made it clear that they would not tolerate a renewal of Communist aggression. More recently, we have brought into force a Mutual Defense Treaty between our two countries. This Treaty evidences the deep concern of the United States for the security of your country against aggression from whatever source. Taken together, the Joint Policy Declaration and the Mutual Defense Treaty constitute clear and positive warning to any potential aggressor. I do not believe this warning will be taken lightly.
In addition, the extensive economic and military assistance the United States has given and is continuing to give the Republic of Korea is a substantial investment in the future of your country. The United States is making this investment because it has confidence in the future of the Republic of Korea.
You mention certain underlying factors which cause your people great concern. You fear that some Americans have doubts as to the strategic value of the Korean Peninsula and that these doubts were the main reason for withdrawal of the Headquarters of the United States Far East Air Force. Nothing could be further from the case. We [Page 12] intend to continue to do all that we can to prevent Korea from falling prey to Communist aggression whether that aggression is by open acts of hostility or by subversion. The lives of the Americans who died defending Korea, our mutual security programs, our mutual defense treaties, the Manila Pact4—all of these bear witness to the depth and breadth of our concern for the security of the Republic of Korea and other free nations.
You assert that the belief is widespread in Asia, on both sides of the Iron Curtain, that the United States bases its military and diplomatic policies for the Far East primarily upon the preservation of Japan as the chief center of resistance to Communism. Those who hold this belief are mistaken, although there is no question that it is of the greatest importance that Japan continue to be indissolubly linked to the Free World. The security of the whole area—including the safety of Korea—would be seriously threatened if the Communists were to succeed in subverting Japan.
But this fact does not derogate from the importance of Korea’s position or the position of any other country of the Free World. This Government believes that the threat of Communism in Asia is so great that each of the free countries of Asia needs to contribute what it can in human or material resources to the collective effort to resist that threat. But these resources can be used effectively only if cooperation among the free nations transcends all lesser differences of opinion.
Therefore, I am very glad to be assured that you share our interest in the restoration of a feeling of genuine harmony and friendship between Japan and Korea. In this connection, the suggestion you make for a tripartite treaty between Japan, Korea, and the United States seems to me to be well worth further exploration. I am asking Ambassador Briggs to discuss this matter with you so that we may have a fuller explanation of your ideas about such a treaty.
With respect to the aid program I want to express my appreciation of your indication of intent to abide strictly by the new arrangements we have recently made5 and to continue to work cooperatively with the United States in the spirit of utmost sincerity. I, in turn, want to reaffirm that it is the intention of the United States to do the same. Doubtless new problems will continue to arise. My hope is [Page 13] that these problems can be worked out without an adverse impact on the aid program. I am anxious that the funds which the United States Congress has appropriated for the Korean aid program should be spent in the way which will most efficiently promote the economic and military strength of your country. I am convinced that the arrangements we have jointly agreed to in the Minute of Understanding, if carried out in letter and spirit, will insure that the aid funds will be spent in a manner which will achieve that objective.
In conclusion, I want to express my personal pleasure that you came through your recent operation so successfully. I trust your period of convalescence will be short and your recovery complete. Mrs. Eisenhower joins me in sending warm greetings to you and Madame Rhee.
- Source: Department of State, S/S Files: Lot 66 D 204, Eisenhower/Dulles Correspondence with Rhee. No classification marking. Drafted in NA by Jones and sent to Seoul in telegram 498, February 4. (Ibid., Central Files, 611.95B/2–455) Ambassador Briggs transmitted the letter in a letter to President Rhee on February 7. (Ibid., Seoul Embassy Files: Lot 59 F 180, 350 Korea 1955)↩
- See footnote 3, Document 2.↩
- The text of the Sixteen-Nation Declaration on Korea, issued at Washington on July 27, 1953, is printed in Department of State Bulletin, August 24, 1953, p. 247.↩
- The Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, signed in Manila on September 8, 1954. (6 UST 85)↩
- Reference is to the Agreed Minute of Understanding cited in footnote 3, Document 3. Beyond the exchange rate provisions previously discussed, the Agreed Minute stipulated U.S.-Korean cooperation in military and economic aid programs totaling a maximum of $700 million for fiscal year 1955, programs designed to spur the recovery of the Korean economy and to support Korean military forces totaling 720,000 personnel.↩