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

3970. Subj: Summary of Panmunjom Meeting, Feb. 5.2

RAdm Smith opened meeting by reading verbatim text of statement contained para 2, State 109854,3 concerning atmosphere of compulsion. Before reading his statement, Smith passed to Pak two copies in both English and Korean. Pak and his advisor read statements intently while Smith was speaking.
Pak, reading from prepared statement, responded that at Feb 4 meeting Smith had given explanation distorting facts to make it appear that Pueblo had been in international waters and crew had committed no crime. Said charge Smith had just made had nothing to do with Pueblo matter and reserved right to express position in future. Referring again to his Feb 4 statement about compulsive atmosphere having been created by US side, Pak advised Smith to answer later after seriously studying his statement. He then requested answer to his second question at Feb 4 meeting (whether case was to be dealt with as matter between DPRK and USA, since Smith had stated Pueblo not under UNC command and case was without precedent).
Smith responded by again requesting names of Pueblo crew who are dead and wounded.
Pak, again reading prepared statement, contended that purpose of these contacts is to arrange means of discussing matters related to Pueblo case. Said that if Smith wished to solve matter “practically”, it proper that representative from both sides appointed by DPRK and US should meet among themselves. He again requested clear answer to his question in Feb 4 meeting in this connection.
Smith, saying he would address that subject shortly, then read prepared statement referring to fact that he had requested info on names of Pueblo dead and wounded by written and oral means without result, ending with statement that US simply cannot understand why [Page 608] NK persists in refusing simple humanitarian requests of this nature; such refusal, without reason, aggravates tensions.
Smith, stating he was responding to Pak’s second question at Feb 4 meeting, read verbatim text of statement contained para 4, State 109854, as amended by State 109876.4 As with first statement, Smith provided Pak copies in English and Korean, which were again avidly read.
Pak replied after long lapse, during which he made extensive penciled changes in his prepared text and combined latter with notes he had made on written copy of Smith’s statement. He said that Smith in his last statement had stated he represents Govt of US in handling Pueblo case. Asked whether he could understand that US side admits Pueblo case is matter to be handled by DPRK and US and that Smith represents US Govt.
Smith rejoined that he did not feel he could improve on statement he had just read, which prepared by US Govt.
Pak, after deleting several lines and making brief addition to prepared statement, said he noted “your acknowledgment” that Pueblo case is matter to be handled by DPRK and by US Govt and that Smith represents US Govt. Asked whether Smith agreed with this understanding. (Foregoing was spoken very slowly and deliberately by interpreter.)
After repeating statement about his inability to improve on words given him by US Govt, Smith stated that “I will agree that I am acting for US Govt.” After reviewing his statement, Smith added that he saw nothing in statement which states that US Govt will deal directly with DPRK as such.
Pak responded with notation of fact that Smith had stated he represents US Govt with full authority to deal with Pueblo case. He suggested conclusion this meeting and “Let’s have a talk when we meet again.”
Smith said that before concluding he wished make additional point. He then read prepared statement containing suggestion that future meetings be held at 1400 hrs (as suggested State 109852).5 Smith then said he had given Pak replies to his questions of previous day, that he had nothing further, would await Pak’s reply, and suggested recess. Pak stated he noted what Smith had said. Meeting recessed at 1631 hrs.
Comment: Meeting was very businesslike. Pak was obviously unhappy over what Smith said but remained polite. Obvious that his principal interest, for which he was well prepared, was to attempt to lead Smith into statements to effect that this was govt to govt negotiation. Both sides left door open for further sessions, and we expect that Communist side will shortly call next meeting. Pak did not in any way indicate awareness of contents Rusk/McNamara Meet The Press interview.6 It is possible that knowledge of contents of this interview had not been passed to him prior to meeting, or that Pyongyang is still studying its implications.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Korea—Pueblo Incident—Cactus II, Cactus Seoul Cables, January 29 to February 9, 1968. Secret; Flash; Nodis; Cactus. Attached to a February 5 memorandum from Rostow to the President in which Rostow characterized the meeting as “inconclusive” and suggested a prompt decision be made “about the Moscow message in the light of Tommy’s cable.” See Document 266. Rostow’s memorandum indicates the President saw the telegram.
  2. A complete, verbatim text of the meeting is in telegram 3974 from Seoul, February 5. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 33–6 KOR N–US)
  3. Document 265.
  4. See footnote 3, Document 265.
  5. Dated February 4. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 33–6, KOR N–US)
  6. Rusk and McNamara appeared on the television news program on February 4. An unabridged transcript of the broadcast is in Department of State Bulletin, February 26, 1968, pp. 261–272.