216. Memorandum on the Substance of Discussion at a Department of State-Joint Chiefs of Staff Meeting 0

[Here follow a list of participants and discussion of item 1.]

2. Korea.

General Twining asked for the Department’s thinking in view of the fact that the Chinese Communists were withdrawing from North Korea. He felt that the Communist position in North Korea is stronger than ever because they have a better base from whence to operate.

Mr. Reinhardt stated the Department’s position as follows:

“In our opinion, the United Nations forces should remain in Korea until the mission of the United Nations has been accomplished by the creation of a unified, independent and democratic Government of Korea. Moreover, until a satisfactory settlement has been achieved in Korea, our own security interests require that we maintain our forces in the Republic of Korea. It is likewise important that we retain operational control of the Republic of Korea armed forces so as to preclude any possibility of unilateral action on the part of the Republic of Korea Government in attacking North Korea. There is considerable danger, furthermore, that Communist efforts at subversion of the Republic of Korea Government and people would be much more effective if our troops were not present in the Republic of Korea.”

There was general agreement by all the Chiefs on this statement.

General Taylor said that this is a difficult problem, that he believed we must maintain our present position until the political situation is clarified and that, while he has every desire to reduce military expenditures for budgetary reasons, he considered it would be very helpful if all could agree that the troops should stay in Korea. Mr. Reinhardt replied from the political point of view there are increasing difficulties in the presentation of our position, particularly because of disengagement proposals which were being so much discussed at the present time.

In response to General Taylor’s query as to whether the Department will have to reappraise its political thinking, in view of the fact that a stalemate exists on the military front, Mr. Howard Parsons reviewed the events since February 5 when the proposal of the North Koreans was reported through the press. He pointed out that after Chou En-lai had [Page 444]endorsed the North Korean position and stated that they will withdraw Chinese Communist troops from North Korea, the Soviets gave their endorsement. Their endorsement included a request for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Admiral Burke asked whether Ambassador MacArthur had not said in a despatch1 from Tokyo that the Japanese are in favor of this denuclearization proposal. Admiral Burke added that he understood the proposal was similar to the Rapacki Plan2 and that Japan, Korea, and Taiwan would be included in the area. Mr. Howard Parsons stated that this proposal will undoubtedly be discussed in the Japanese Diet. He explained that at first the Japanese thought Chinese Communist troop withdrawal might ease tension in the area. However, they were disturbed about the belligerent tone of the announcement with respect to both the United States and Japan. Since then the Japanese Foreign Office has been anxious to learn of our assessment of the reasons for the Chinese Communist announcement and particularly whether we intend to withdraw our troops from Korea. If so, the Foreign Office would be most distressed. Mr. Parsons characterized this “as a most encouraging development”.

General Taylor affirmed that there is no reason to reappraise the military planning for Korea. Mr. Smith stated that the burden is on the State Department to find a way out of the political dilemma.

Admiral Burke mentioned the fact that the Chinese Communist troops were apparently having difficulties with the local population (marriages, food) which may have been one reason why it was decided to effect the withdrawal.

General Twining asked what is being done about the airplane which the North Koreans had just kidnapped.3 Mr. J. Graham Parsons stated that at a meeting of the Armistice Commission several days ago the Communists had refused to accept the list of passengers and the manifest and had stated that it was a matter for the two governments of North Korea and South Korea to discuss.4 Subsequently, the Communists [Page 445]called another meeting and maintained their position. The Department then decided to protest through Moscow,5 but that up to the present time no response has been forthcoming. Our Embassy in Moscow, however, has stated that the protest was passed along to the North Korean Government by the Soviets four or five days ago. The Department has considered publicizing the protest lodged through the Soviets but has not done so because the action of the Kremlin transmitting the protest to the North Korean Government implied that it was interested in accomplishing the release of the passengers. On March 3, however, unless favorable action has occurred, the Department will release the statement.6 In the State Department there is strong feeling that a firm record should be made in the Military Armistice Commission, that another meeting should be called, and that a recital of the history of the case at that time would show the complicity of the North Koreans. The Military Armistice Commission, it is believed, is the proper place to discuss this question.

In response to General Taylor’s question as to the attitude of President Rhee’s Government, Mr. J. Graham Parsons stated that he had been in Korea ten days ago and that the attitude at that time was one of startled apprehension and rage but that he has found no tendency to take any action to solve the question between the two governments.

Mr. Irwin asked what steps had been taken in the propaganda field to emphasize our position. Mr. Howard Parsons stated that the Department had been very liberal in furnishing the news services via Link White with the latest developments on the case. Moreover, such strong terms as “high-jacked” had been used. These wire service reports had been carried throughout the world by USIA. The Department has as yet, however, not indicated that a protest has been lodged through Moscow.

Mr. Irwin asked about the reaction in Asian countries. Mr. Howard Parsons replied that he had seen none.

[Here follows discussion of items 3 and 4.]

  1. Source: Department of State, State–JCS Meetings: Lot 61 D 417. Secret. The meeting was held at the Pentagon. A note on the title page reads: “State Draft. Not cleared with Department of Defense.” An additional note indicates that the memorandum was approved as accurate in the Department of State by Reinhardt, Howard Parsons, and Ambassador Paul C. Daniels.
  2. Not found in Department of State files.
  3. During a U.N. General Assembly debate on disarmament on October 2, 1957, Polish Foreign Minister Rapacki announced that, after consultation with other Warsaw Pact members, Poland was willing to accept prohibition of production and stockpiling of nuclear weapons on its territory, provided that West and East Germany simultaneously took the same action. (U.N. doc. A/PV. 697)
  4. On February 16 Korea National Airlines flight 302, en route from Pusan to Seoul with 29 passengers and three crew members, was hijacked by a Korean student and diverted to North Korea. The passengers included two U.S. citizens. (Airgram G–22 from Seoul, February 18; Department of State, Central Files, 995B.723/2–1858)
  5. On February 18 the U.S. representative on the Military Armistice Commission at Panmunjom demanded the return by North Korea of the hijacked plane, crew, and passengers. (Telegram 609 from Seoul, February 18; ibid.)
  6. On February 22, the Embassy in Moscow was instructed in telegram 923 to request that the Soviet Union “communicate urgently to the North Korean authorities” a demand for the immediate release of the two American citizens being held in North Korea, as well as the other passengers and plane involved in the incident. (Ibid., 995B.723/2–2258) The Embassy submitted the protest to the Soviet Foreign Ministry on February 23, and on February 26 the Foreign Ministry indicated that it had transmitted the U.S. note to the Korean People’s Democratic Republic. (Telegram 1480 from Moscow, February 26; ibid., 995B.723/2–2658)
  7. The passengers and crew of the hijacked plane were returned through the Military Armistice Commission on March 6. (CINCUNCUK 977883 from Seoul, March 6; ibid., 995B.723/3–658) The Department of State released the text of the protest sent to North Korea through the Soviet Union on February 23. (Department of State Bulletin, March 24, 1958, pp. 462–463)