128. Telegram From the Embassy in Korea to the Department of State 1

1402. Dept please pass DOD and CINCPAC. From Ambassador. Subj: Additional ROK Forces for Vietnam. Ref: State 37911.2

After careful weighing of Korean factors and atmosphere, I am submitting following proposal for Dept/DOD consideration in connection with current MND study, requested by Pres Pak, of numbers of additional troops which might be sent to Vietnam and method of recruiting them. In presenting this proposal my aim is to (1) get more ROK troops to Vietnam; (2) minimize the cost impact of the additional ROK contribution on our own budgetary and foreign exchange burden in immediate future; and (3) improve domestic position of ROKG to extent which will permit it to take necessary action in Assembly and evoke public support for dispatch of more troops.
We have previously explained why we must help Pak overcome domestic political obstacles in this connection. Our task is not becoming easier because boldness of NK sabotage of DMZ and pressure on DMZ itself is creating (as it is undoubtedly designed to do) in public mind much uneasiness about ROK ability to defend itself. Moreover, when railroad sabotage is carried out miles south of DMZ and relatively close to nation’s capital, it involves face and builds up ROKG desire for riposte. In circumstances, question naturally arises whether new military manpower should be used at home rather than in defense of country two thousand miles away.
My concept on timing is to make known to Pak that as soon as he has considered MND report mentioned above that I would like to discuss it with him. If atmosphere suitable I would at that time say we have been giving much thought to matter of his need to reassure assembly and public about security of country, particularly in relation to possible troop dispatch.
I would tell Pak that I was authorized, in consideration of an additional troop dispatch, to say that the US was prepared to3
Equip those forces and finance the net additional won costs of the forces deployed;
Equip, provide for training and finance forces in Korea to replace those agreed forces being deployed to Vietnam;
Help meet the threat of NK infiltration by providing expeditiously specific equipment and assistance to improve land and sea border security systems maintained by ROK military and to improve the capability of civilian internal security agencies to detect and eliminate NK infiltrators; and
Agree that ROK forces serving in VN when hostilities ceased would retain and return home with special equipment we have loaned to them for combat operations in VN.4
In presentation of above I would point out that first two items intend make sure ROK defense capability not lessened and no economic burden placed on ROK economy due to dispatch. Third item designed to meet in timely manner intensified NK infiltration threat and to provide tangible and visible evidence to Korean people to reassure them of ROKG’s ability deal with NK threat. Last item aimed at enhancing ROKG long-term defense posture.
Please have in mind possibility that ROK may consciously or sub-consciously expect to retain equipment on loan to them in VN and may adopt a “thank-you-for-nothing” attitude. Much of equipment they are using in VN would of course be well worn at time of implementation of any such agreement but we would not expect this to be major factor in their consideration of proposal. Similarly they are very likely to feel that the “anti-infiltration” help is something we would do anyway, given our concerns over ROK security, our treaty commitments and our pledges.
I submit the above suggestion which I consider to be a barebones minimum for even a token additional contribution because it meets considerations cited para one above. These proposals should induce Pak to begin thinking in specific terms and possibly undertaking necessary initial preparations of public opinion for another dispatch. Among ROK military elements above arrangements would probably be regarded with favor, and Pak is not insensitive to opinion from that quarter. We would ensure that ROKs do not miss point that by contributing more troops now they can expect to enhance their own defense capability during post hostilities period when MAP can be expected to phase down markedly. Please note that I have not included in my suggested offer anything that touches on the economic side and that the offer is “de minimis” insofar as ROK military modernization is concerned. How much further we go in any offer should, in large part, depend on the size of the additional ROK dispatch.
We would like to try these proposals on for size and they should at least evoke their counter-proposals. I am particularly interested in seeing what they come back with in the economic area which may be the real key to the problem. If they renew their proposal that we negotiate logistics and tech assistance package for VN, I would state our willingness to negotiate such, as indicated President’s message to Pak, but I would point out that VN approval of ROK-US agreement in that sense not likely during next few months at least in view changing patter [pattern?] of govt and Assembly in VN and that proposal for “anti-infiltration” help their retention of equipment used in VN much more useful to assure public that govt dealing effectively with problem of ROK security.
Please let me have your comments or questions as soon as convenient. I wish to stress that my suggestion in para four is only an opener to get the process moving with an air of specificity about it. If the ROKG is thinking in terms of one-half to a full division, my package will not come close to meeting the Bill.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–3 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Exdis.
  2. In telegram 37911 to Seoul, September 15, Bundy asked Porter to provide information concerning the request for additional ROK troops for Vietnam. (Ibid.)
  3. In reply the Departments of State and Defense suggested allowing the Koreans to present their demands first “rather than open the bidding ourselves.” (Telegram 42939 to Seoul, September 23; ibid.)
  4. Telegram 42939 also authorized Porter to make general references to items 4A, 4B, and 4C but to withhold mention of the proposal in item 4D because of the potentially negative Korean response to it and because the dollar amounts involved could not yet be determined.