235. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1

Mr. President:

The attached cable from Ambassador Porter indicates clearly his problem with our proposed procedures so far as Park is concerned.

As indicated to you yesterday we have a problem of reassuring Park and the South Koreans on the infiltration problem. By leaving some of the aircraft in Korea and increasing military aid—notably, if we are going to get our extra division for South Vietnam.

Secretaries Rusk and McNamara will have been informed and be ready to discuss a reply by 9:00 AM.

We will shortly send up to you State’s proposed reply to Porter which suggests: 1) go immediately to Park without an interim message to the North Koreans; 2) tell him our strategy is to take these issues one at a time; 3) indicate specifically our willingness for later meetings on the question of infiltration and increased military aid.

W. W. Rostow 2

[Page 541]

Attachment 3

Telegram From the Embassy in Korea to the Department of State

Seoul, January 28, 1968, 0923Z.

3706. Country Team Message. Ref: (A) State 106065;4 (B) State 106066;5 (C) State 106070;6 (D) USFK Message UK-50285 DTG 261115Z.7

We deeply concerned over adverse impact procedure suggested Refs (A) and (B) would have on US/ROK relations. As we have reported, ROKs from President on down are convinced that our actions and statements since Pueblo incident simply do not recognize extreme gravity of threat to internal security and political position of ROKG represented by Blue House raid and North Korean determination to increase subversive effort.
We have not informed ROKG of exchange between ourselves and North Korea through NNSC members. Despite security precautions we cannot keep this from them for very long. We have already received anguished approach from Foreign Ministry voicing suspicion that we are attempting to contact NK directly at other locations, notably Warsaw, and that we therefore intend to confine negotiations to retrieval of Pueblo and crew. We have ample evidence that suspicions are also growing at highest levels that once we succeed in obtaining release of ship and crew, we will withdraw force augmentations and leave ROK problem in status quo ante Pueblo with no improvement in President Park’s political or security problems. We have had broad hints that ROKs are talking among themselves of possible withdrawal ROK armed forces from operational control CINCUNC and, because of concern over reopening of hostilities here, return of ROK troops from Vietnam. We do not believe they are serious, but fact that senior ROKs imply such consideration is indicative of psychological climate we must deal with here. Should ROKs learn that we have requested meeting of senior members MAC solely to discuss Pueblo incident, as suggested [Page 542] Refs (A) and (B), without parallel effort on intrusion problem, results could be explosive.
Moreover, whatever subject matter, believe it would be highly inadvisable to express willingness to hold open MAC meeting. Presence of press and other witnesses at open meeting would impel Pak to put on propaganda show and attempt to place US in most humiliating light possible.
Accordingly, urgently request we be authorized to follow procedure outlined below:
Immediately send KPA/CPV senior member first four paras of reply contained Ref (A) plus para 5 ending after words “joint duty officers.” Such reply is currently being translated and prepositioned for immediate delivery by secure means. By limiting this reply to request for information on condition of crew members, we would also provide NNSC opportunity to follow through with letter they suggested to us yesterday (Seoul 3697).8
Ambassador will seek soonest possible appointment with President Park to inform him of dealings which have already taken place through NNSC and of request for information on crew by senior member UNCMAC. Ambassador will state that senior member UNCMAC is also requesting a private senior member meeting to discuss problem of obtaining release of Pueblo and crew and to impress on North Koreans in most forceful terms gravity of situation posed by continuing North Korean infiltration. If President insists that UNCMAC senior member demand guarantee from North Korea that there will be no further intrusion, Ambassador will respond that it probably impossible to obtain. However, to ease President’s very real concerns, request Ambassador be authorized if necessary to inform him that USG will do following:
Retain substantial proportion of force augmentation in and near Korea until such time as developments indicate infiltration threat and its attendant political and psychological problems materially lessened.
To provide tangible evidence that we are doing something directly for the ROKs, USG will airlift available CIGCOREP items as requested in Ref (D), which USFK is passing separately directly to Dept.
Acknowledge firm commitment on spring delivery first destroyer, which heretofor has been tied to additional dispatch of ROK troops to Vietnam. [Page 543] We are under no illusions that these items, if agreed, would entirely eliminate pressures on US arising from Park’s internal political position. They may ease pressures for time being, however, if carefully publicized.
Senior member UNCMAC will then send separate message to senior member KPA/CPV side requesting private senior member to senior member MAC meeting. Request update guidance contained Ref (B).
Ambassador will raise problem of ROK attendance at UNSC (Ref C) at time he makes approach mentioned para 4(B) above.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Korea—Pueblo Incident—Cactus IV, Cactus Miscellaneous Papers, February to December 1968. Secret; Nodis; Cactus. The memorandum indicates that the President saw it.
  2. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
  3. Secret; Flash; Nodis; Cactus. Repeated to USUN.
  4. Document 233.
  5. Document 234.
  6. Telegram 106070 to Seoul, January 28, instructed Porter to inform the ROK Foreign Minister, or if necessary Pak himself, that ROK insistence on appearing before the Security Council could be used to divert attention from the Pueblo seizure and Blue House raid to a debate on invitations to both North and South Korea. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 23–7 KOR S/UN)
  7. Not found.
  8. In telegram 3697 from Seoul, January 27, the Embassy reported on the NNSC’s views of resolving the Pueblo crisis. Although it contained no specific reference to a letter, the telegram noted that the Communist members of the NNSC suggested negotiations could be arranged by means of “messages through Joint Duty Officers of Panmunjom” or through a private MAC meeting. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 KOR/UN)