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

103144. Ref: Seoul 3562.2

Senior UNCMAC member should make strong, dignified and hard statements on both North Korean raid on Seoul and on seizure of Pueblo, keeping both in balance so as not to give South Koreans feeling we attaching more importance to latter.
If North Koreans question validity of raising Pueblo under Armistice Agreement, you are to ignore question and avoid argument on this. Wish you to concentrate on fact that raids and Pueblo seizure, following last year’s harassments in DMZ and raids, are part of a new pattern of North Korean belligerence and aggressive actions which dangerously increase tensions in this area. If they are persisted in, they will have the most serious consequences to the maintenance of the Armistice and to the preservation of peace in Korea. North Koreans should be warned that these acts cannot be perpetrated with impunity.
Leave it to you to work out statement on raiders. With respect to Pueblo you are to draw on DOD statement and State Dept. Spokesman’s statement ignoring approach to Soviets, and stressing the following:3
Pueblo was in international waters at 39 degrees 25’05” North, 127 degrees 54’09” East.
Seizure was in violation of international law. Request an apology for this illegal action.
Vessel and crew must be returned intact and immediately.
U.S. reserves right to ask for compensation under International Law.
You should end presentation with the following words: I have been instructed by the U.S. Government4 to say the following directly to you. The events of last year, and especially the last few days, have put new complexion on the situation in Korea. The North Korean regime has embarked on campaign of provocation, sabotage, and assassination in violation of the Armistice Agreement and international law. The Republic of Korea and the United States threaten no one. If the North Korean regime persists in this campaign, which can only endanger the peace of this area, the responsibility for the consequences will rest with the North Korean regime.5
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 KOR/UN. Secret; Flash. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD and the White House. Drafted by Fleck and Berger; cleared by Steadman, Meeker, Bundy, Rostow, and Read; and approved by Rusk.
  2. In telegram 3562 from Seoul, January 23, the Embassy referred to the upcoming MAC meeting called to protest the Blue House raid and indicated that, due to time constraints, it preferred to raise the Pueblo issue at a subsequent meeting. (Ibid.) In response the Department of State instructed the Embassy to raise the issue at the January 24 MAC meeting. (Telegram 103026 to Seoul, January 23; ibid., POL 33–6 KOR N–US)
  3. Initial statements issued by the Departments of Defense and State on January 23, as well as President Johnson’s address to the nation on January 26, are in Department of State Bulletin, February 12, 1968, pp. 189–190.
  4. The Department of State underscored the importance of the statement being made on behalf of the U.S. Government, even though U.S. participation in the MAC was as a representative of the United Nations. The Department insisted that the statement refer to the “US and US alone,” because Washington did “not want to highlight UNC capacity and thus stimulate UN delegations in New York to question our right to speak in this capacity.” (Telegram 103324 to Seoul, January 23; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 KOR/UN)
  5. A U.S. observer described the atmosphere of the meeting as “not tense” and the North Koreans as chatting and acting “generally in jocular manner, laughing outright at statement of US demands” presented by Rear Admiral Smith in response to the Blue House raid and the Pueblo incident. A summary of the meeting was transmitted in telegram 3597 from Seoul, January 24. A verbatim text of Smith’s statement is in telegram 3608 from Seoul, January 25, and a translation of the statement made by the North Korean Senior Representative, General Pak Chang Kuk, is in telegram 3624 from Seoul, January 25. (All ibid.)