264. Memorandum From the Director of the Korean Task Force (Berger) to Secretary of State Rusk1


  • Pueblo—Policy Issues Raised at Second Meeting of Senior Representatives


1. At the Second Meeting of Admiral Smith and General Pak, the North Korean side put forward two principal demands:

The US should “eliminate the atmosphere of compulsion it has created” by concentrating Seventh Fleet and US air power in the vicinity of North Korea.
Since the Pueblo was not under CINCUNC, the matter of Pueblo’s seizure should be dealt with on a government-to-government level, i.e. by representatives of the US and the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK).

II. “Elimination of Compulsion”

2. The North Korean statement about eliminating the “atmosphere of compulsion” is clearly a demand for the withdrawal or reduction of our military buildup in the Korean area. It raises two kinds of questions:

What do we say at the next meeting?
Can we and should we agree to make any changes in the disposition of US forces in the area as a token of our “sincerity” and our desire to get down to business?

3. The first question is a matter of tactics for the next meeting. The second question is more fundamental.

What we Say

4. In raising this question General Pak has twisted Admiral Smith’s words at the first meeting of the Senior Members. Admiral Smith had referred to our desire for a meeting to discuss the Pueblo case in an “atmosphere free from the compulsion of publicity.” This distortion should be pointed out at the next meeting. It should then be emphasized that if there is an atmosphere of tension and a buildup of military forces in the area, it is because of increasingly aggressive acts by the North Korean armed forces such as the infiltration of spies and [Page 601]saboteurs, the raid on the ROK Presidential palace and finally the seizure of the Pueblo. If North Korea exercises restraint vis-a-vis the ROK and if it releases the Pueblo and crew, tensions will be reduced, and the US will be able to draw appropriate conclusions and act accordingly.

5. At the next meeting also, we should repeat our request for the names of the dead and injured, suggesting that if the North Korean authorities are unwilling to make even this small and compassionate gesture they cannot be serious about reducing tensions.

What we Do

6. Meanwhile we should be considering what to do after the next meeting. Pak complained that the US has threatened North Korea by sending the Seventh Fleet (including specifically the Enterprise) into the vicinity of North Korean territory, by introducing “numerous fighters and bombers” into the ROK, and by placing US troops and the ROK army in a state of complete combat readiness.

The following actions should conceivably be taken to evidence our desire to get things moving:

Move Enterprise task group south to East China Sea.
Withdraw Enterprise and at least part of Enterprise task group from the area.
Move some or all of remaining naval units south.
Return some tactical air units from ROK to Okinawa or Japan.

Our view is that the simplest and safest initial gesture would be moving Enterprise task group south. This movement would probably be made known almost immediately to the North Koreans by the USSR. Such movement could be made without operational difficulty and without placing our forces too far away to be useful or threatening. Such moves would be less visible to the ROKG and easier to explain than withdrawal of air units from the ROK or a standdown of the Eighth US and ROK armies.

When to Do It

7. The main question is whether to make a gesture of withdrawal in the current phase, i.e. while the North Koreans are still building their case, releasing confessions and stating conditions, or to wait until they have put everything on the table, the issues are further crystallized, and some action may be needed to break a deadlock and prevent negotiations from coming to a stop.


Issue orders to the Enterprise task group to begin steaming south but delay execution of the orders until after the next meeting, when a final decision on this action would be taken.

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III. Raising the Level of Negotiations

8. At the February 4 meeting General Pak referred to Admiral Smith’s statement (at the February 2 meeting): “and additionally the ship was not under the Commander-in-Chief of the United Nations Command.” Pak asked whether this meant that the case is to be dealt with as a matter between the two sides—the DPRK and USA; if this understanding is correct and the US side appoints a representative of the USA, the North Korean side would also appoint a representative of the DPRK.

9. The North Koreans appear to have picked up the UN Command point in order to make a bid to raise the level of discussion on the Pueblo to government-to-government. In addition to the general objections we would have to any such shift, it would pose two special problems with the ROKG:2

The issue of recognition and status for Pyongyang.
Separation out of the Pueblo seizure to be dealt with on a higher level than the MAC, to which the ROK’s problems are relegated.

10. We believe that at the next meeting in Panmunjom Admiral Smith should clarify his statement to assert that while in the US military command structure the Pueblo was not under CINCUNC, it was nevertheless part of the forces in the area of the United States, it was there in pursuance of the efforts of the CINCUNC to maintain peace, and it is the United States which provides the unified command of United Nations forces for Korea pursuant to the United Nations Security Council resolution of July 7, 1950. Admiral Smith would then go on to say that he, as Senior Member of the MAC on the UN Command side, represented the United States Government fully in regard to matters involving military forces related to peace and security in Korea. He would also recall the position taken by the North Korean side that the MAC was the appropriate forum for discussing the Pueblo seizure. A suggested statement is attached.3

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11. The North Koreans might nevertheless persist in its demand for appointment of government-level representatives to deal with the Pueblo. If they should, we would then have to consider whether we would want to meet them part way on this issue by a device such as (a) giving Admiral Smith another hat as special US representative, or (b) sending an additional US Government representative to Panmunjom to sit with Admiral Smith and take part in discussion on the Pueblo; any such representative should be auxiliary to Admiral Smith and not independent of him, and the talks should remain in the MAC framework at Panmunjom. (In this connection, you may be aware of Arthur Goldberg’s suggestion, made yesterday, that a lawyer be sent from Washington to work with Admiral Smith and assist him in the discussions.)

IV. Tactics

12. The failure of the North Koreans to provide the names of our injured and dead at this second meeting should be hit hard at the next meeting. We have asked Admiral Smith to put in a request through the Joint Duty Officer immediately, and also to consider using the good offices of the NNSC members in their private capacities in view of their offer to do this if we failed to obtain any information at the first meeting.

13. If we have not received an answer before the third meeting, Admiral Smith should open with an insistent demand for their names as a token of their good faith in these negotiations. They have, in effect, asked us for the withdrawal of the Enterprise as a token of our good faith. If they are not prepared to make the simple gesture, we certainly should not make the very visible larger one.

14. This second meeting is rather ominous, and we should consider sending the letter to Kosygin if we are still on dead center after the third. The letter would say that we have gotten nowhere in these meetings. The North Koreans whose activities produced the present state of tension continue to say it is we who are threatening. Kosygin has asked for restraint. We have exercised restraint. As a further gesture, and depending on how we assess the third meeting, we might tell him we are moving the Enterprise south.

15. It is our turn to ask for the next meeting. If we are ready with our instructions by 5:00 p.m. today (7:00 a.m. Monday, Korea time), we could ask for the meeting for 4:00 p.m. Monday, Korea time. The North Koreans would then either have to accept or propose a later time, hopefully Tuesday.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 33–6 KOR N–US. Secret.
  2. In telegram 3973 from Seoul, February 5, the Embassy reported growing dissatisfaction with the U.S.-North Korean meetings at Panmunjom within the ROK. National Assembly leaders and political spokesmen saw the secret talks as an affront to the ROK and an infringement of its sovereignty and complained that President Pak was not informed about the meetings in advance. In an editorial, the government-owned newspaper Sinmun portrayed the negotiations as “‘tantamount to betrayal’ of ROKG since it not consulted in advance and because North Koreans treated as equal.” The article repeated President Pak’s comment that the ROK did not have unlimited patience in dealing with North Korea, called for a withdrawal of ROK troops from Vietnam, recommended the ROK regain operational control of its military, and “urged ROKG to take independent retaliatory action, if necessary.” (Ibid.)
  3. Not printed.