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

7178. Ref: A. State 159444;2 B. Seoul 7146.3

It is not very difficult to specify evidence to support existence of Korean ardor for reunification (Ref A). Problems in this connection arose as far back as 1953 with Syngman Rhee and resurfaced again recently as result of Blue House raids and other current forms of NK pressure. The Vance mission correspondence sheds considerable specific light on the subject, as well as on ROK view of the improbability of great power non-intervention. To this we add our assessment of current atmosphere based on our knowledge of personalities at the decision-making level.
The desire to reunify this country runs very deep. It is the natural impulse of a homogeneous people living in one half of a divided nation, and this impulse is only strengthened by fact that many ROKG leaders are Northerners. If our telegrams of late have contained reminders [Page 426] of this sentiment, it is because we are currently injecting more military hardware into the ROK armed forces, and I want to be sure that all concerned have in mind the various [garble] and implications of ROK preparedness.
My emphasis has not been on ROK ardor or anger at NK provocations. They are but parts of the education. Whether ardor, anger or frustration can trigger action we wish to prevent depends largely on capability, and therefore whether the problem of unification becomes more or less acute in months or years ahead would seem to depend in large part on the type of equipment we furnish. It is timely to examine this subject because ROKs will probably table a substantial additional military aid program request at meeting of Defense Ministers later this month.4
It is of course a welcome development that the Foreign Ministry, perhaps not unmindful of Defense Ministers’ Meeting, announced that it has instructed ROKG embassies to assure all that ROKG has no thought of anything other than peaceful reunification of the country (Ref B).5 We have not yet heard that assurances have actually been conveyed to you, but in any case the announcement did not evoke any notable public approbation or attention here. Perhaps that was because Foreign Ministry opinion would not be decisive, nor very influential, in such a matter.
None of this, I am sure, will be construed as meaning that we are hesitant about further contributions to the defense of the ROK. We believe in the preservation of the results of constructive work and the valuable position we have here. We believe that our future moves should be carefully considered in this context, especially as they affect the capability of the ROK forces, both offensive and defensive.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 32–4 KOR. Secret; Limdis.
  2. In telegram 159444 to Seoul, May 7, the Department of State requested further information concerning Embassy reports discussing “(a) ardor of ROK leadership to reunify country, perhaps by military adventure, and (b) belief of ROKG that if confronted by fait accompli of this type great powers would not intervene.” (Ibid., DEF 6 KOR S)
  3. Telegram 7146 from Seoul, May 10, summarized remarks made by the Vice Foreign Minister at a press interview at which he stated, among other things, that Korea had no intention of using force to unify the country. (Ibid., POL KOR S)
  4. Fulfilling one of the provisions of the joint communique issued at the conclusion of the Vance Mission to Seoul, the Joint U.S.-ROK Defense Meeting was held in Washington on May 27 and 28. Related documentation is ibid., DEF 1 KOR S; POL 7 KOR S; POL 7 US; and in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Korea, Memos, Vol. V.
  5. On July 4 the Prime Minister told Porter of the establishment of a Ministry of Unification that “would supervise research and collate general information on problems of reunification.” In response to Porter’s inquiry as to whether the official announcement about the new ministry would “mention their attachment to peaceful reunification,” the Prime Minister conceded the importance of the point without committing himself further. (Telegram 8360 from Seoul, July 5; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69,POL 15–1 KOR S)