124. Telegram From the Embassy in Korea to the Department of State1

552. From Charge. Subject: Clifford/Taylor Visit.

First meeting with Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Minister of National Defense and Minister of Health and Social Welfare was devoted to listening to their views on conduct of war in Vietnam. In terms basic purpose Clifford/Taylor Mission, this meeting produced no significant developments beyond PriMin’s hawkish views on countering North Vietnamese forces in DMZ and bombing of Haiphong. Meeting being reported by separate memcon.2
After meeting briefly with President at which time Clifford/Taylor outlined their proposed manner of presentation to the President and other ROK officials, group joined PriMin and Cabinet members mentioned above. Steadman and Charge present on US side with Clifford and Taylor. Yi Hu-rak, President’s principle secretary, also joined meeting.

Clifford opened discussion explaining why President Johnson had sent Clifford/Taylor Mission, and what purpose of mission was in meeting with other Vietnam allies and with President and ROK ministers. He then asked Taylor give his report on Vietnam war.

[Here follows discussion of the conduct of the Vietnam war.]

[5.] Clifford continued that President Johnson understands that if the war continues the US must bear the major burden and US is prepared to carry the main share of men and costs. Clifford went on to describe the budgetary problems and tax increase requirements confronting President Johnson. Clifford stressed that if President Johnson is to be able to get Congress to approve and the American people to go along with this necessary tax increase, he must be prepared to answer the question of what our allies are doing in the way of additional effort. If he has to answer negatively, he will not get what he feels is needed for the US to be able to bear the main brunt of the battle and meet most of the cost of the struggle. Clifford continued that we are building up our forces in Vietnam to 480,000 and that President Johnson recognizes that we are going to have to increase these forces by very substantial amounts. The American people will want to know what our allies are sending since many of the people feel that the nations [Page 268] of Southeast Asia and the far Pacific area are closer to the danger than we are.3

Clifford concluded saying that the mission had presented this statement of facts to each nation visited and the team recognized that each nation must make its own decision. President Johnson wants each to know what the situation is as he sees it so that these facts can be taken into account as each nation decides what its decision should be. President Johnson wishes it made clear that he is not requesting troops on behalf of US. The US will handle its problems and do its part. President Johnson wished, however, that as each nation’s leader looked at the problems in his own enlightened self interest, he should know what the US views are. President Johnson recognizes that President Pak has problems but suggests, however, that the problems of the war in Vietnam are transcendent. He hopes President Pak will place them first during his considerations. President Johnson appreciates this is a matter on which President Pak cannot make an immediate decision. The allies cannot rest on contributions to date but must go on to make additional contributions so that the allied military leaders can have the men and tools to get the job done. Taylor added that now is the time to do everything we can to show Hanoi the firmness of the allies and their intention not to permit a war of attrition to develop. We need to show Ho Chi Minh that the allies are prepared to put in the necessary resources to bring the war to an early termination. The group then broke up for lunch.
After lunch Clifford/Taylor met with Pak. Foreign Minister, Yi Hu-rak and Charge also present. Pak asked Clifford/Taylor to express thanks to President Johnson for sending them to give report on the Vietnam war efforts. He has high regard and respect for President Johnson’s resolution to finish the Vietnam war rapidly in spite of many problems facing him. Pak stated he feels morally obligated to extend help so far as he can. He wished to say frankly that in view of the domestic situation it difficult to come up with decision at this time. One reason is that the majority of Korean people since the earlier dispatch of ROK forces to Vietnam are concerned over their own security. The last time the ROK sent troops the majority of the people supported the government but now they express worries and apprehensions about ROK security if more troops dispatched. The recent increase in North Korean agent and infiltration activity has added to these apprehensions and concerns of the people over their own security. Pak acknowledged that we have the same objective of settling the war as [Page 269] rapidly as we can and he will give due consideration to how ROKG can contribute. He fully appreciates US cannot take on whole burden and he will look into seeing how he can share in it.
Taylor then suggested that during these considerations ROKG take into account the order of priorities set out by General Westmoreland—(1) the basic need is for combat infantrymen and there is a requirement for more infantry divisions, including a ROK division; (2) there is a need for additional support units for ROK troops; and (3) there is a need to make arrangements which will provide ROK civilian technicians and laborers to support the Vietnam effort.
Pak indicated that General Chae had asked for supporting units and for the dispatch of ROK air force units for air/ground operations. Both requests were now being studied by ROKG.4 Pak then pointed out that the earlier dispatches of troops required National Assembly approval. However, he thought that in the case of support units he might be able to get away without seeking Assembly approval. In case of additional combat units it will be necessary to get National Assembly approval and he is faced with a difficult position on this point since the opposition is boycotting the Assembly.5
Clifford in concluding meeting pointed out that President Johnson felt close friendship and excellent working relationship existed between himself and President Pak. Clifford then suggested that Pak after he had finished his deliberations and reached his conclusions might wish to write directly to President Johnson, sharing these thoughts with him. President Pak replied that he would be happy to do so.6
Comment: I feel that visit here has been useful and profitable. Pak understands our problems and wants to help but he has his problems. [Page 270] He may be prepared to help out in near future on support units and civilian technicians. On major combat troops, however, his domestic political problems are a major stumbling block and he did not predict when that will be solved. It is certain he will do nothing on this front until things here are back to normal on political front.
Pak’s references to concerns of the people over ROK security relates to the price for any combat troops sent to Vietnam. It means they will have to be replaced here and modernized at US expense. We can expect the price to include something to help ROKG counter North Korean agent and infiltration activities. Though it did not come out in our discussion there are likely to be other requests in economic and possibly political area to make any future combat troop dispatch more palatable and acceptable to Korean people.
With reference to summit meeting they felt any idea of meeting is good but should be looked at after VN elections to decide on timing and place.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 7 US. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Repeated to Saigon and CINCPAC.
  2. Not found.
  3. President Johnson reinforced many of these points in a follow-up letter to President Pak on August 17. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Special Head of State Correspondence, Korea, April 1, 1967 to December 31, 1967)
  4. ROKFV Commander Lieutenant General Chae Myung-shin later spoke to Korean journalists in Saigon, stating that for Korea to send additional combat troops and an air force unit to Vietnam would enhance ROK defenses because of the combat experience acquired by the troops in Vietnam. (Telegram 693 from Seoul, August 11; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–3 VIET S)
  5. On July 27 George S. Newman, Charge d’Affaires ad interim, met with the Prime Minister in advance of the Clifford-Taylor visit. Regarding additional Korean troops, the Prime Minister mentioned the political deadlock and stated that the situation must first “return to normal and there needs to be a cooling off period” before a decision could be made. He pointed out that “a matter of such importance could not be submitted to a one-party Assembly,” for the political opposition had already indicated it would resist sending additional combat troops to Vietnam. (Memorandum of conversation, July 27, attached to a letter from Newman to Bundy, July 28; ibid.,POL 7 US)
  6. In his July 27 conversation with Newman, the Prime Minister suggested that the question of additional troops would best be handled between President Johnson and President Pak. In his subsequent letter Newman urged Bundy “to give serious thought to the use of this tactic if and when we have to ask for additional Korean troop contribution. I become more convinced that at the right time this can be the key to success.” (Ibid.)