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

4121. Ref: State 112452.2

I called on PriMin this morning to discuss with him our plans for open and closed meetings. Foreign Minister also present.
Chong was obviously pleased at thought we would have open meeting, which might provide photographs and new comment sufficient to obscure in part at least fact of closed meeting. Foreign Minister again declared ROKG opposition to closed meetings which I countered with statement of our need keep this channel open.
They pressed me hard on question of envoy, saying his early arrival crucial in present situation. For first time they seemed as much concerned about President Park’s state of mind as with Assembly and public opinion. I told them that matter of envoy being considered and I might have something to say to them in near future. They then went off to see the President.
After their interview with him, Foreign Minister asked me to come very urgently to his office. He was alone and obviously in very agitated state of mind. He was still concerned about closed meetings and read me statement which he said he had written down at President’s request and which expressed ROK insistence that we hold only open sessions of MAC at Panmunjom. If open sessions are inconvenient in our effort for regaining wounded and crew of Pueblo and U.S. Government needs to continue closed meetings, ROK Government insists that ROK officer should accompany UNC representative to closed meeting. Their position has not changed on this. The Foreign Minister said he did his best but President used “very strong words” and position remained unchanged.
I said it was incomprehensible to us how ROK friends could insist on a move which would close the only channel available to us. Their alternative to this, as he knew, was to face their public opinion in Assembly, announce the full consultation we had had on this subject and state their agreement with us. He pleaded that at least we postpone the next closed meeting until after the envoy’s arrival. (Comment: On [Page 354] this last point I need to know your wishes soonest for we are withholding request for both open and closed meetings until hearing from you.)3
Choi then made lengthy statement on very frustrating position that ROK Government finds itself in. “We have six hundred thousand men and we are not doing anything,” he declared, obviously reciting President’s line. (This was new for him. Hitherto he has been concerned only about Panmunjom meetings.) He declared President’s position is intolerable and that President does not know what United States will do if another NK raid takes place. Choi declared that we should quickly “negotiate pieces of paper” which will state exactly what would happen in way of retaliation in such circumstance. He said there should also be a direct joint public warning to NK stating clearly what would happen if there is another incident. This man was so distraught after his visit with President that I merely commented mildly that if we did what he said we would be signaling our intentions in a way which could benefit only the adversary. He said he could resign but that would not solve anything and he wanted to impress upon me that the things he was saying to me might be a “last warning.”
Here I recalled to him my statement to the President, to the Prime Minister and to the Foreign Minister earlier that in any circumstances regardless of provocation we expect full advance consultation on any measures they might envisage. He said that President Park kept repeating that every time he mentions need for retaliation I talk about advance consultation and the President feels very frustrated. I said that might be true but we have obligations to each other which we must not forget.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 33–6 KOR N–US. Secret; Immediate;Nodis; Cactus.
  2. See Document 164.
  3. The Department of State rejected the request, emphasizing that it was imperative that the United States “proceed with private seniors meeting as often as necessary to keep heat on North Koreans.” (Telegram 112650 to Seoul, February 9; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 33–6 KOR N–US)