240. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State1

2612. State 106090.2

I delivered Secretary’s message to Gromyko twelve noon today. He read it in my presence. After I had replied negatively to Gromyko’s question if I had anything to add orally, Gromyko said message would be studied carefully and perhaps replied to thereafter. However, he said he could say today that if US interested in settlement, it should not exert pressure on North Korea, for such pressure prevents and impedes settlement. He said he would not exclude the possibility that if there were no pressure, something would be done to reach settlement. Thus, he repeated, if US wished settlement, it should abandon pressure. If US prestige involved in this matter, so is North Korean. As Soviets had said earlier, absence of pressure would improve atmosphere.
Gromyko then repeated point he made to me January 27 that US should not take at face value its information regarding location of vessel. Soviets knew for sure that Pueblo had violated North Korean [Page 553] territorial waters. There was no doubt about this in Soviet mind. Referring to Secretary’s statement in letter that vessel had not entered NK territorial waters, Gromyko said perhaps Secretary not fully informed. He asked me to inform Secretary that Soviets had no doubt whatsoever that Pueblo had entered NK territorial waters. He urged US to face facts as that would help reach solution. Once having made a statement, US should not insist on repeating it ad infinitum. Such line of argument weak and not helpful.
I said I did not know what Gromyko had in mind in referring to US pressure. Noting we were acting with restraint, I pointed out that other side was talking about putting crew on trial as criminals, and our public opinion was aroused. We had taken up matter through diplomatic channels and also in Security Council. As to vessel’s location, I noted we had tapes and other evidence. However, if Soviets had some different information, other than North Korean statement, we would be grateful for it.
Gromyko commented he did not exclude possibility of giving us copy of explanation of circumstances of incident written in captain’s own handwriting. He was not, however, sure he would get a copy, but if he did he would give it to us.
Gromyko then pointed out that his remarks should be understood in the context of earlier Soviet statements that USSR could not be an intermediary in this case. However, since US turned to Soviets, they told us their point of view and their estimate of situation. Soviets would not like us not to pay close attention to their views.
I assured Gromyko that we wanted to settle this affair peacefully and quietly. We did not want to create difficulties for other side. I assured him that we would consider his remarks very carefully. I also assumed Soviets would want to give close study to Secretary’s message.
Gromyko then referred to Secretary’s comments about violations of US territorial waters by Soviet ships and said he did not remember incidents cited by Secretary. However, those were different cases and it was difficult to say if there was any analogy between them and the present case.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 33–6 KOR N–US. Secret; Immediate; Nodis.
  2. In telegram 106090 to Moscow, January 28, Rusk sent a letter to Gromyko reiterating that the Pueblo was seized in international waters, outlining international law covering the treatment of warships in territorial waters, listing Soviet violations of U.S. territorial waters and the action taken in those instances, stressing U.S. intention to resolve the Pueblo crisis peacefully, and requesting Soviet intervention to achieve that end. The letter also included a detailed chronology of events leading up to the seizure of the ship and an offer to provide tapes made of North Korean and U.S. radio communications concerning the Pueblo incident. (Ibid.) According to a January 28 memorandum from Rostow to the President, Johnson saw a copy of the letter. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Korea—Pueblo Incident, Department of State Cables, Vol. I)