205. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Jones) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Murphy)0


  • Reduction of Republic of Korea

Forces I understand that at the State-Joint Chiefs of Staff meeting on Friday, January 10, 1958,1 you will discuss the status of Republic of Korea force reductions. The modernization of United States forces in Korea is no longer being delayed pending Korean acceptance of our force reduction proposal. As a result, we understand that plans will soon be completed to introduce Honest John and 280 mm gun battalions into Korea; [1 line of source text not declassified].

On January 4, 1958, General Decker, Commander in Chief, United Nations Command, informed President Rhee and the Republic of Korea Minister of National Defense of United States plans regarding the introduction of the dual purpose weapons battalions [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. General Decker reported that this information did not evoke any immediate favorable reaction from President Rhee on reducing Korean forces. A January 7 [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] report,2 considered reliable, states that President Rhee’s reaction was that he wanted no atomic weapons in Korea unless both Korean and American forces were equipped with such weapons, and that no force reductions were possible until unification was achieved.

On November 5, 1957, the Republic of Korea Minister of National Defense presented our representatives in Seoul with the Korean counterproposal3 to the United States proposal that the Republic of Korea Army be reduced by four divisions by the end of US FY 58. The Koreans proposed a reduction of 60,000 men (2 divisions plus other units) from the authorized force level of 720,000. This was considered unacceptable by the United States since the actual level of Korean forces has always been below this authorized level, established in the Minute of Understanding of November 19544 for FY 55. Acceptance of the Korean proposal, [Page 426] therefore, would not have resulted in any budgetary savings, which is the objective of the United States decision in proposing a Korean force reduction.

In our reply5 to the Korean counterproposals, which also included a “shopping list” of additional equipment and weapons desired by the Koreans, the United States stated that the minimum acceptable plan is a reduction by June 30, 1958 of 60,000 men (61,500 in the Army with adjustments in the level of the other services) from the actual strength of 676,995 men, based on the figures used in the FY 58 Congressional presentation. The Koreans questioned this actual force level figure and further instructions6 were sent to our field representatives who then informed the Minister of National Defense that the United States in US FY 59 will support an authorized ceiling of the Republic of Korea armed forces of 620,000 men. Thus, our final proposal involves a reduction of 100,000 from the previous authorized strength of 720,000 and, in effect, an actual force reduction of about 60,000 (the actual figure depending on the “current” actual strength used).

This final United States position was presented to the Minister of National Defense on December 28, 1957.7 The Minister stated that at the direction of President Rhee he is undertaking a study of the long-range military requirements of the Republic of Korea. He indicated, however, that he was proceeding in the meantime with the reduction of 60,000 as proposed by the Koreans on November 5, 1957, i.e. a reduction from the authorized strength of 720,000 to 660,000 but an actual reduction of only about 17,000. A further reduction by 40,000 to the 620,000 level continues, therefore, to be the subject of further negotiation.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 795.00/1–958. Top Secret. Drafted by Barbis.
  2. See Document 207.
  3. Not found.
  4. Transmitted in UK 977475 to the Department of the Army, November 6. (Department of State, Central Files, 795.00/11–657)
  5. For text of the Agreed Minute of Understanding between the United States and the Republic of Korea, initialed in Seoul on November 17, 1954, see Department of State Bulletin, November 29, 1954, pp. 810–811.
  6. Transmitted in DEF 933850; see footnote 1, Document 204.
  7. Transmitted in DEF 934500 to CINCUNC, December 24, 1957; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol XXIII, Part 2, pp. 531532.
  8. Transmitted to the Department of Defense on December 30, 1957, in UK 977659; for text, see ibid., pp. 535536.