123. Memorandum From Alfred Jenkins of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1


  • Bonesteel’s “Eyes Only” of July 21

State, Defense and CIA have now all agreed that a SNIE is desirable as Bonesteel recommends in paragraph 15 of the attached telegram. I am told that the terms of reference for the SNIE should be arrived at before the week is over, that it will take about two weeks to write it, and perhaps another two weeks to coordinate and clear the results. We can expect the end product near the first of September.2

Ambassador Porter has requested, however, that the Country Team message, also referred to in para. 15, be held up until his arrival August 9.

Sam Berger was not inclined to believe the situation was quite so serious as Bonesteel implies. Ben Fleck observed that while the Country Team in Seoul was in substantial agreement as to the seriousness of the [Page 262] situation, there was not full agreement as to what should be done about it. Perhaps the SNIE will be beneficial to their thinking as well as ours.

This seems to fit the picture of heightened tension all around Communist China’s periphery. I doubt that these days North Korea is concerting its plans in any way with Peking. They may, however, be taking advantage of heightened tensions by acting concomitantly. In doing so, they can indicate support for their Vietnamese ideological brothers, at least be in line with China in its anti-American policy, and not be irritating their Soviet friends in the process. They would seem to be out to cause maximum trouble short of precipitating any real confrontation with us.



Telegram From the Commander in Chief, United Nations Command, Korea and the Commander of United States Forces, Korea (Bonesteel) to the Commander in Chief, Pacific (Sharp)

KRA 1579. Following message passed to you for your info per DIA. Subject: Situation in Korea as of mid-July 1967.

Events here since my last summary in my KRA 1374 dated 25 June 19674 have continued at a somewhat intensified pace.
Internal political affairs are well covered by current Embassy cables. There appears to be little hope for DRP compromise with opposition and internal scars of June 8 elections are by no means healed.
In regard to North Korean actions, it becomes clearer as time moves on that a significant effort is underway to try to apply subversive war against the ROK.
An interesting facet of this derives from review and analysis of NK statements at Panmunjom and the parallel NK propaganda line pushed out increasingly since last autumn for Pyongyang, Moscow and NK embassies world wide. The theme has two parts. First is that [Page 263] the imperialistic Yankees and their ROK puppets are trying to reopen the Korean War to take pressure off Vietnam and are flagrantly violating the armistice to provoke such an event—and the North Koreans are prepared for such a war so that if it occurs they will annihilate us. (Of note in this regard is that interrogations of recently captured agents reiterate NK view I reported in my KRA 1795 of 10 Nov 665 that NK’s evaluate US as so overextended in support Vietnam that we would be unable adequately to reinforce Korea in case of war.) The second part of propaganda theme is constant repetition of the big lie to the effect that none of the aggressive actions along DMZ or in interior of ROK are result of NK activity. On contrary they reiterate monotonously that this is all due to South Koreans who are fighting to throw off Yankee yoke; i.e., it is an indigenous, Korea-style “Vietcong” activity. Absurdity of this in light repeated proof that all actions are by North Korean agent/guerrillas does not faze them.
I consider this propaganda line the tip-off to the growing seriousness of North Korean intentions and capabilities. NKs seem seriously embarked on a large scale effort to try to develop a subversive war in ROK and I think it now timely for us to conscientiously review the bidding on policies re North Korea, on how and what US and ROKs should be prepared to do if NKs escalate their subversive activities, and on priorities re MAP and AID assistance to ROK. North Koreans are arrogantly disavowing their flagrant and large scale violations of the armistice in what seems to be an effort to build acceptance by world public opinion for their intensification of hostile subversive acts with little or no risk to them for their de facto abrogation of the armistice. They are, in other words, carefully trying to make the US and rest of world accustomed as a matter of course to steadily increasing hostile action against ROK at no great risk to North Korea, in same way that in Vietnam the Geneva Accords and Vietnam DMZ were eroded and bypassed by Communists in effort to delay timely and effective free world reaction and confuse the real issues. All this jibes with speeches and directives by Kim Il-sung from his March 65 requirement for more effective espionage activities against ROK, in context of how Mao’s Chinese Communists had “liberated” China by guerrilla action and how guerrillas in Vietnam were “successfully” carrying out their mission, through to his policy address of 5 October 1966, when he stressed the need for expanding preparations for war and adopting more aggressive tactics in anti-ROK operations to achieve earlier unification of the “fatherland.”6
Intelligence indicates NKs have now trained in special unit schools and have available for dispatch some 1200 or more specially selected agent-guerrilla personnel. Some instructors have been in Vietnam. All are capable of conducting subversion, espionage, agitation, and supporting or carrying out militant guerrilla action. More are currently in training. In addition they have been carefully training for two years 500 subversives in each of the nine NK provinces for guerrilla activity in a target ROK province assigned to each of the NK provinces. This adds up to 5,000 or more specially trained thugs. We must also take into account their 4,070-man reconnaissance brigade, a special-forces-type unit capable of being employed in guerrilla operations. Thus total available for future NK subversive utilization adds up to about 10,000.
Current para-guerrilla action in interior of ROK is now clearly confirmed to be test of ability to operate in current ROK environment and reconnaissance to support later large-scale real guerrilla action. We call current activity “para-guerrilla” because so far sabotage and widespread terrorism has not been practiced. One interrogated captive has said [garble—current] plan is to start active phase of sabotage, blowing up railroads, bridges and buildings, terrorism, etc., next year but perhaps later this year if conditions permit. Another has said they may put in up to 400 agents this year. NKs appear at this time to be able to land para-guerrilla teams from their fast boats almost at will. [5–1/2 lines of source text not declassified]
Detected para-guerrilla activity has now developed in three areas: Taebaek-san, West Chiri-san, and west of Ulsan. Every day there are sightings, contacts and firefights. Box score since 1 January from actions in interior of ROK, excluding DMZ and contiguous areas, is: firefights 63; North Koreans 81 KIA, 33 captured; ROKs (ROKA, KNP and civilians) 40 KIA, (including four or five farmers murdered), 88 WIA. These figures do not include another sizeable number of agents and collaborators picked up by normal police action. We have identified in action about a dozen teams of from seven to sixteen NKs each but are hard put to figure how many overall actually have been introduced so far, but might be as many as twenty. Rainy season now beginning will facilitate SEA infiltration if NKs wish to continue buildup. ROKs with our support are giving them a really rough time and civil population is being extraordinarily helpful. With difficulties of getting food and of resupply, plus loyalty to ROK of the people, the para-guerrilla effort so far this year has faced real difficulties.
Embassy and UNC for past year or so have taken position that internal security of ROK against agent and subversive activity should be function of ROK civilian security and police agencies, with ROK military supporting internal operations only when necessary while concentrating on trying to stop infiltration through DMZ or by interceptions at sea. [Page 265] We have emphasized internal security should be prime responsibility of ROKG not UNC though we of course willing to help when needed. President Park now considers trend of NK subversive activity potentially dangerous to sense of security of ROK as well as to its economic investment programs and progress. He has in past week called together senior cabinet members a number of times and put heat on ROK CIA and Korean National Police to rapidly build up better internal security capability and to reduce required support by military. KNP has long way to go, however, so I have authorized temporary use of one-and-a-third active divisions from FROKA reserve for counterguerrilla action in Taebaek-san and Chiri-san areas in effort to be so effective against NK testing this year as to discourage next year’s intensification.
Activities of ROK 32nd division in Taebaek-san and 16th regiment of 8th division near Chiri-san in conjunction with KNP has been pretty good so far but several suspect areas not covered. We are converting our annual US/ROK special forces exercise “Doksoori” from a guerrilla/counterguerrilla maneuver to a real counterguerrilla action to begin right after the rainy season and, with support from ROK troops and police, to sweep the extremely rugged parts of Chiri-san and other suspect areas. I consider this effort extremely important to assure no undetected NK test enclaves survive the summer. Embassy [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] and ROKs enthusiastically support the concept.
Actions along DMZ are also continuing with increasing viciousness with more planned, small-scale attacks being made. Firefights are occurring almost every night. A few days ago three more U.S. soldiers were killed. This year’s score along DMZ to date: firefights 69; NKs 64 KIA, 2 captured; ROK/US 35 KIA, (including 6 U.S. KIA), 87 WIA. Irritating factor is that in last few weeks NK along DMZ are improving their kill ratio.
Following show overall figures:
1965 1966 1967 to date
DMZ incidents 42 37 286
Firefights (DMZ plus interior) 29 30 132
NK, KIA 34 43 146
NK, captured after firefights not comparable 35 (excludes police pick-ups)
ROK/US, KIA 40 39 75
ROK/US, WIA 49 34 175
ROK MND Kim under personal direction of President Park is effectively coordinating ROK military support to civil internal security [Page 266] agencies. He repeatedly has asked our assistance to expedite deliveries of counterinfiltration materiel already programmed. He believes with me that we must be as nearly totally effective as possible in meeting this year’s testing by NKs to discourage next year’s effort, but also thinks as I do that overall NK intentions and investment in resources are such that they will take greatly increased and classically destructive guerrilla actions next year regardless of hard time this year. He is afraid of possibility they may switch from testing to destructive action later this summer. I have told him we all are trying to speed up delivery of useful materiel such as fast boats, commo equipment, coast surveillance radar, searchlights, helicopters and miscellaneous items. He also hopes the new DD and APDs will be available for use against NKs 1968 activity.
We are conscientiously trying to carry out instructions to keep Korean situation and DMZ quiet and out of press sensationalism. But I believe increased NK activity has reached point where this cannot be effected much longer. In fact, because of NK propaganda theme mentioned above and their blatant violations of armistice, we should now bring it out in the open by a planned psy war and counter-propaganda campaign showing the scope and intentions of NK action and falseness of their propaganda.
Because of the Commie propaganda theme and because of clarifying intent of NKs to energize subversive warfare, I reiterate recommendation that, in effect, an SNIE on North Korean subversive and conventional war capabilities and intentions be produced expeditiously, and additionally that IRG actively review current policies regarding US/ROK collaborative effort and countermeasures we should be prepared to take. Embassy and my staff are working up a Country Team message with some recommendations in this regard.
Have just heard of Clark Clifford’s and Gen. Taylor’s mission to Asian/Pacific countries contributing forces to Vietnam.7 North Korean intensification of activity here may add to difficulties for ROKG to contribute significant additional combat forces to Vietnam.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Korea, Vol. IV. Secret.
  2. Document 130.
  3. Secret; Eyes Only. Repeated to Generals Wheeler and Johnson in Washington; General Beach, CINCUSARPAC, Hawaii; and General McKee in Japan; and passed to Bundy and Jorden at the White House; General Carter, Director, NSA; and Helms, Colby, and Jack Smith of the DDI at CIA.
  4. Not found.
  5. Document 99.
  6. A discussion of the points made by Kim Il-sung in his October 1966 address is in Intelligence Note No. 94, February 2, 1968. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69,POL 32–4 KOR)
  7. The White House announced on July 20 that Clifford and Taylor would travel to Saigon to assess the war effort and visit the countries with troops in Vietnam for consultation and to discuss additional manpower needs. They spent August 2 and 3 in Seoul.