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

109854. Ref: State 109842.2

1. Following are texts of statements recommended for use by Admiral Smith at next meeting of Senior members.

2. Believe Smith should open with statement as follows on North Korean accusation that we have created atmosphere of compulsion:

Begin Verbatim Text:

At the last meeting you said that the release of the crew and vessel Pueblo should be discussed in an atmosphere free from compulsion. Let me repeat that the US Government seeks a peaceful solution of this matter. You have stated that our side has created an “atmosphere of compulsion.” Admittedly, there is an atmosphere of tension in this area, but that atmosphere is related to actions by North Korea. Account must be taken of increasingly aggressive actions by North Korean armed forces such as the infiltration of spies and saboteurs across the DMZ over the last 14 months, the raid on the Presidential palace in Seoul, and finally the seizure of the Pueblo.
There is, therefore, a direct way to reduce tensions and eliminate the “atmosphere of compulsion” to which you refer. The armistice agreement must be faithfully observed. The North Korean Government should release immediately the Pueblo and its crew. Tensions would be reduced and the United States would be able to draw the correct conclusions. End Verbatim Text.

3. Smith should then repeat demand for names of dead and wounded if they have not already been given. We simply cannot understand why the North Korean side persists in refusing simple humanitarian request of this nature. Refusal without reason aggravates tensions.

4. In response to North Korean effort to get us to put discussions on govt-to-govt level, Smith should use following carefully prepared language:

[Page 605]

Begin Verbatim Text:

General Pak at the meeting of February 4 referred to my earlier statement that the Pueblo was not under the command of CINCUNC, that it was a unit of the US Pacific Fleet, and that the case was without precedent.
First, let me recall what I actually said on the question of precedent. These were my words: “The action of North Korea in seizing the ship was completely without precedent, and it was illegal because the ship was in international waters, …”
Obviously, I was referring to the fact that seizure of a warship in peacetime in international waters, in contravention of international law and accepted international practice, is quite unprecedented.
Next, let me clarify the place of the Pueblo in the US military command structure. I stated that the vessel was not under the command of CINCUNC because the line of command for the vessel ran from the US naval command in the Pacific rather than through CINCUNC. The Pueblo was, of course, a commissioned ship of the United States Navy, and as such a part of the armed forces of the United States. The need for the Pueblo’s presence in the Sea of Japan arose from increased tensions in Korea caused by the actions of your side, and was in support of the mission of the forces on our side which is to maintain peace and security in the area.
As for my position as Senior Member of the MAC on our side, I am here as the representative of the United States Government and authorized by USG to discuss Pueblo matter.3
Finally, your side has already recognized that the MAC machinery is appropriate for discussion of the Pueblo seizure. Your side has done so in the statements of spokesmen and in the action of holding the meetings we have had. Accordingly, we do not see what special representatives could do in these discussions that you and I cannot do. If your side has anything specific in mind, would you elaborate? End Verbatim Text. 4
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 33–6, KOR N–US. Secret; Flash;Nodis; Cactus. Drafted by Doherty; cleared by Berger, Walsh, Meeker, Steadman, and Sisco; and approved by Katzenbach.
  2. Telegram 109842 to Seoul, February 4, advised the Embassy that the Department of State was preparing responses to the two North Korean demands made at the last meeting. (Ibid.)
  3. In telegram 109876 to Seoul, February 5, the following was substituted for this paragraph: “As for my position, I am the Senior Member of the MAC on our side and I represent the United States Government with full authority to discuss the release of the U.S.S. Pueblo and its crew.” The Senior Member was instructed to make clear his position as representing, but not as a representative of, the U.S. Government in this matter. (Ibid.)
  4. In telegram 109856 to Seoul, February 4, the Department of State further advised that, should the North Koreans ask if the U.S. demand for an apology and compensation had been withdrawn, Smith should refer to his previous statements and reiterate the demand for release of the ship and its crew. (Ibid.)