268. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union 1

110351. Literally Eyes Only for the Ambassador from the Secretary. Deliver soonest to Kosygin if possible following message dated February 5, 1968, from President to Kosygin:

“Dear Mr. Chairman:

I can tell you very simply why additional U.S. military forces are in the area of South Korea and the Sea of Japan.2 For many months infiltration from North Korea across the Demilitarized Zone has been increasing. There were about 50 incidents initiated by the North Koreans in 1966; there were almost 600 in 1967. We have reports that there were some who were trying to persuade North Korea to open a so-called second front. [Page 610]We are fully aware of the threatening public statements made by the leaders of North Korea themselves, including the recent statement by Premier Kim Il-sung that— ’We must accomplish the South Korean revolution, unify the fatherland in our generation, and hand down a unified fatherland to the coming generations. We must quickly make all conditions ripe for the realization of the unification of the fatherland.’

Recently two events occurred within a few days of each other which we were forced to take with the utmost seriousness. A North Korean mission of specially trained officers was intercepted in Seoul with orders to assassinate President Park, the American Ambassador, and their families. Second, a vessel of the U.S. Navy was seized in international waters in an action which is almost literally without precedent in modern times and which violated a rule of law in which you and all other maritime nations have a great interest. This act has deeply stirred and outraged the American people. Surely you need not look beyond these developments to understand why we felt it necessary to augment our forces.

Quite frankly, we do not know what North Korea has in mind. We do know what we have in mind; namely, that North Korea will not be permitted to direct its military forces against South Korea and that American flag vessels are not to be seized on the high seas.

As far as the Pueblo matter is concerned, you and I seem to agree that a prompt settlement is in the common interest. This can only mean, of course, the prompt return of the Pueblo and its crew. We see no reason why this action could not be taken within the next two or three days through the channels now established at Panmunjom.

If the ship and its crew are promptly returned, it is obvious that tension in the Korean area would be sharply reduced and the forces there could then assume a more normal posture. We must, of course, continue to watch and take seriously any continued acts of infiltration directed against the Republic of Korea.

I am glad to have your candid views. On the assumption that you and I agree that we want peace in that area and that we will both work to that end, I can tell you that I have directed that there be no further build-up of our air and naval forces at this time. In addition, I am directing one of our aircraft carriers and accompanying vessels to move somewhat southward.

Sincerely, Lyndon B. Johnson”

Septel follows on developments at Panmunjom.3

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 33–6 KOR N–US. Secret; Priority;Nodis. Drafted by Rusk; cleared by Read, Rostow, and McNamara; and approved by Rusk.
  2. With the exception of this sentence, this and the following two paragraphs of the letter were sent to Porter, who was instructed to read the text to Pak alone and to stress that the information was being passed in strictest confidence. (Telegram 110350 to Seoul, February 6; ibid.)
  3. A summary of the fourth MAC meeting was sent to Moscow in telegram 111562, February 7. (Ibid.)