165. Telegram From the Commander in Chief, Pacific (Sharp) to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Wheeler)1

090405Z/RUHKA 1165. Joint ROK-US UW Group.

COMUSKOREA 010655Z Feb 68 (PASEP).2
With regard to the development of a joint ROK-US UW Group, as recommended in ref A, I asked Gen Beach for his comments. He has submitted the following analysis in which I concur.
The growing impatience of the South Koreans with lack of US direct action and our declining prestige as a result thereof are recognized. The question to be addressed is whether a combined ROK-US unconventional warfare (UW) planning staff and the conduct of black operations [Page 350] will effectively stem this criticism without engendering more serious problems for the United States. This question must be reviewed in light of other significant measures being undertaken, including the major increase in MAP, the air movement of CIGCOREP equipment, and the permanent stationing of additional US forces in the ROK.

Is the US willing to collaborate in deliberate violations of the Armistice Agreement of 1953, and if so, will UW operations against North Korea (NK) have any reasonable prospects for success? The advantages-disadvantages of the establishment of a ROK-US UW planning group are as follows:


The ROKs have a capability in UW already developed and may employ it unilaterally. A combined UW planning staff may bring operations more under US control.
UW operations are less expensive in personnel, equipment, and funds (gold flow) than purely defensive measures. They are, however, no substitute for such defensive measures.
North Koreans understand retaliation and may slow down their incursions if successful UW operations can be conducted.
The establishment of a combined planning group may help convince the ROK top level that the US will not tolerate NK provocations and it may raise US prestige with ROK leaders. It may temporarily pacify them.
If the ROK leaders are convinced, some controlled and favorable public reaction in the ROK is possible.
Controlled black raids are not likely to provoke initiation of hostilities and they might forestall ill-conceived ROK retaliation efforts.
Possible training advantages could accrue for US UW personnel.
If successful, UW operations may increase our intelligence holdings on NK.
The probability of success, although low, would be improved with US participation in planning.


Establishment of a combined UW planning group effectively commits the US to eventual conduct of UW operations. To plan but never implement such operations would further lower ROK leaders’ opinion of US resolve. It would convince the ROKs that unilateral action is the only answer.
Conduct of black operations would violate the Armistice and, if exposed, would subject the US and ROKs to violent NK propaganda attacks in international media and forums.
Types of UW operations of most impact would require deep penetrations. The NK security environment, unlike that in the ROK, makes prospects for success very remote.
Experience with pure intelligence operations, which run less risk of exposure than UW, has demonstrated the difficulty of penetration and travel in NK. In 1963 all US intelligence penetration operations and support to ROK operations were cancelled because agent loss rates exceeded 50 pct. Resumption of combined-intelligence operations in late 1964 reduced the loss rate but only one successful deep penetration has been conducted in past three years.
Results of six known retaliatory piston-type operations conducted unilaterally by ROK agencies since October 1966 are not known but they have failed to dissuade NK from its aggressive infiltration program. D. Because of necessary close hold on UW planning and operations, the ROK public would not be influenced favorably toward the US. Unsuccessful operations would be exposed publicly by NK and ROK public opinion would be adversely affected. Overt strengthening of US–ROK defense forces would better serve to influence ROK public opinion.
US operations are unlikely to dissuade NK from its program of aggressive infiltration. Agents have been trained, plans and reconnaissance have been made and the NK leadership is callous toward its losses and lack of success in 1967–68. NK will continue and possibly step up its activities. ROK-US UW operations essentially would become revenge motivated.
UW forays across the DMZ would cause a tightening of NK security efforts to the detriment of US–ROK intelligence operations.
UW operations are counter to US policy and to the current JCS and CINCPAC policy of the “iron hand in the velvet glove.”
ROK-US UW operations that are compromised and exposed would have very adverse political repercussions in the United States and the free world.
Guerrilla, subversive and their counter-type training have been in progress in Communist countries for more than a decade. Under the current situation in NK, it is unlikely that ROK-US efforts in this field could achieve any measurable success.
US collaboration in planning joint UW operations but without implementation would strengthen the ROKs present conviction that their dissatisfaction with the US is justified.
Exposure of UW operations will further adversely affect relations with the USSR and will prejudice relations with our allies and neutral nations.
UW operations will divert ROK-US efforts to an area which even if successful has very little prospects of calming situation. In fact, such operations may well aggravate the tension which now exists.


Conclusions: A. The benefits to be derived from US participation in a combined ROK-US UW planning group are likely to be of limited value in satisfying ROK leadership and public of [1 or more lines of text missing on the source text].

[B.] tion of other overt measures being taken to enhance the ROK- US defense posture will be more effective in restoring confidence in US determination.

C. There is very little prospect that meaningful UW operations can be successfully conducted in the tight security environment of North Korea.

D. Participation by US in the planning and conduct of UW operations against NK entails a major reversal of US policy without the promise of commensurate returns.

E. Our US–ROK policy, patience and steadfast determination over the past 15 years have been instrumental in preventing the reopening of hostilities in Korea and reducing the possibility of WW III. Emotional retaliatory actions will risk deterioration of present US discussions and may negate the gains achieved in the ROK over this long period.

Continued emphasis should be placed on keeping key military leaders advised of measures that the US is taking to strengthen the US–ROK defense posture.
Concurrently, ROK leaders should be warned of where the ROK stands without US backing. It should be made clear that the US will not start WW III on the basis of NK provocations of the present scale. They should be reminded that the ROK itself has much to suffer if hostilities are renewed.
Efforts must be continued to convince the ROKs of the benefits of enlisting world opinion against the illegal aggressive actions of the Kim Il Sung regime. ROK-US launched UW operations would risk forfeiture of the advantageous reputation that the ROK now enjoys.
CINCPAC recommends that development of a joint US–ROK unconventional warfare group to conduct operations in and against North Korea be held in abeyance and not approved at this time.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Korea—Pueblo Incident, Vance Mission to Korea (B), February 9 to 15, 1968. Top Secret; Priority; Noforn; Specat Exclusive. Repeated to COMUSKOREA, CINCUSARPAC, CINCPACFLT, and CINCPACAF.
  2. Not found.