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

4215. VANTO 12. Ref: Seoul 42072 and 4208,3 VANTO 8 and 9. Subject: Vance Meeting with Korean Cabinet: 1000, February 14, 1968.

Cyrus Vance, accompanied by Ambassador Porter, General Bonesteel, John Walsh, and Colonel Greenleaf met this morning for 1–1/2 hours with Prime Minister Chung, Foreign Minister Choi, Defense Minister Kim, Information Minister Hong, Principal Presidential Secretary Yi Hu-rak, Director ROK CIA Kim, General Im, CJCS, and several of their staff assistants. The meeting, which was again frank and candid, seemed to result in tacit agreement by the Koreans that the “joint defense statement” and “agreed minutes” which they tabled yesterday were not negotiable (see Seoul 4208). Although their reaction was subdued when Vance tabled our draft communique (State 114006),4 they did not take issue with its substance in part because the Prime Minister clearly intends to submit it to President Park.

The most significant exchanges took place in a short private session between Vance, Porter, Prime Minister and principal Presidential Secretary Yi Hu-rak. At this session, Prime Minister recommended that Vance meet alone with President Park and explain to him that President Johnson has grave domestic problems, similar to Park’s and two President’s should stand together at this time. Yi Hu-rak and Chung urged Vance to make clear to Park that he must not take unilateral action against North Korea. Such action would only destroy the economy and hopes of Korea. Furthermore, Vance should emphasize to Park that unilateral action would seriously endanger continuing US support.

When Chung stated that National Assembly pressure might force his government to withdraw their troops from Vietnam, Vance told him flatly we would reciprocate by withdrawing our troops from Korea. He gasped, sputtered and immediately went out and brought Yi Hu-rak into the meeting. Vance also made it quite clear to the Prime Minister that, if we fail to reach agreement on the issues before us, there would be serious US domestic reactions in respect to Korea.

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After returning to the full session, it was agreed that the Foreign Minister would convey this afternoon to the Mission the Cabinet’s reaction to the communique. It was also agreed that Vance, accompanied by Porter, would meet with President Park tomorrow morning, hopefully at 1000 hours.

A detailed report follows septel.5

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Korea—Pueblo Incident—Cactus IIa, Cactus Seoul Cables, February 10 to February 28, 1968. Secret; Flash; Nodis; Cactus. Attached to a February 14 memorandum from Rostow to President Johnson, that indicates the President saw the telegram.
  2. Document 178.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 178.
  4. See footnote 3, Document 176.
  5. See footnote 5, Document 178.