112. Letter From President Johnson to President Pak1
Dear Mr. President:
All of us here were delighted to have the Prime Minister here for a visit, and to talk with him and his colleagues on a variety of subjects in which we have a common interest. We now have a better understanding of your main concerns and problems, and I think the Prime Minister and his party left with a better understanding of ours.
The various departments are now examining the matters which were raised and we shall be in touch with your government when we have finished these studies. As I told the Prime Minister, we cannot help in all respects, but I assure you that we shall do what we can.
In your letter of March 8,2 you spoke of your desire to do more in the civilian area in Viet Nam and to help in the pacification program. The 120 Korean medical people working in the provinces on health programs are doing excellent work, as are the several thousand Koreans on various contract projects. Specific new projects in which a Korean effort would be both practical and beneficial are under study, and our people will soon be discussing these with your officials and the Vietnamese government. There are certain problems: the South Vietnamese capacity to absorb additional ventures, the inflationary impact of these projects, the shortage of housing, the dollar and piastre resources available to support these projects, et cetera. Still I believe we can work something out.
I fully understand the desire of your men in the field to enjoy familiar rations. That is the way it has always been with soldiers throughout history. Therefore, I have asked Secretary McNamara to work out with your officials a way to meet your request that the Korean forces be supplied with “kimchi.”3
We have already taken steps to meet your desire to have your forces in Viet Nam supplied with more modern equipment. A Korean-manned helicopter company will be operating in South Viet Nam by this summer. Distribution of the new rifle to your combat maneuver [Page 240] elements has been authorized and will be completed within the next few months. Secretary McNamara is looking into the other suggestions made to him by your Minister of Defense.
As you know, we have just returned from Guam. The primary purpose of the meeting was to permit our new diplomatic team to become acquainted with those whom they will succeed; for all of us to take stock of the situation, as we periodically do every six months or so; and thus to assure a smooth transition. We informed the Government of Viet Nam that we would be there and told them they would be welcome, if it were convenient, although we would understand if their current pre-occupations made it impossible for them to come. They chose to join us and used the occasion to accelerate the work in the Constituent Assembly and in the Directorate on the constitution. Prime Minister Ky was, therefore, able to present us with a copy of the new constitution.
All of us committed to the defense of South Viet Nam should, I believe, feel a real sense of satisfaction at the evolution of constitutional politics in South Viet Nam. I am told that the constitution reflects elements from the constitution of South Korea; and, even more important, I am sure the leadership in South Viet Nam is inspired by the success of South Korea in moving towards constitutional government since 1961.
It will be a very great achievement, indeed, if our friends in South Viet Nam can carry through successfully the election schedule of the next six months.
As you know, military operations are proceeding with steady success. There is much evidence of pressure on both the main forces and the guerrilla infrastructure. But none of us can state with confidence when the enemy effort will collapse.
We remain ready to respond to any effort that might lead to a peaceful resolution of the conflict which safeguards the independence and territorial integrity of South Viet Nam. We have wide support in Asia and elsewhere in what you and we and our allies are doing. Meanwhile, we must continue to maintain the pressure, and we may need to step it up with additional forces.
We will all have a chance to review these matters together and take stock at the meeting of the troop contributing countries in Washington, April 20–21.4[Page 241]
But I would take this occasion to say that your contribution has been a mighty one, for which we are all grateful. You and I know what resolution and courage are needed to make these hard decisions. But we are trying to prevent a third world war. We are trying to create conditions for a durable peace in Asia. We are trying to help the Asian nations and Asian people get for themselves a chance to live in peace and freedom. These are great aims, and they will require a great and sustained effort.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Special Head of State Correspondence, Korea, November 1, 1966 to March 31, 1967. Secret.↩
- See footnote 3, Document 110.↩
- After studying the matter McNamara approved a program whereby Korean soldiers in Vietnam would be provided kimchi and peppers once each day. The Department of Defense estimated the program would cost approximately $2 million per year. (Telegram 201874 to Seoul, May 25; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 19–8 US–VIET S; memorandum from McNaughton to McNamara, May 20; Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD/OASD/ISA Files: FRC 71 A 4546, 430 Korea)↩
- The conference, which was renamed the Seven Nation Meeting on Vietnam, continued the consultative process established at Manila the previous year. Documents pertaining to Korean participation in the conference are in National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69,POL 7 US. The meeting is documented more fully in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume V.↩