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

8217. Subject: Eighteenth Pueblo Meeting.

Meeting began 1100 hrs local June 27 and ended 1225.2 Pak’s manner was unoffensive and his language soft and obviously intended to be persuasive. Substance of his statements, however, was unyielding with no hint of accommodation. In brief, he reiterated theme of seventeenth meeting that if US wanted crew returned, it must admit criminal acts and apologize for them.
Pak flatly rejected receipt proposed by US at last meeting as basis for negotiating return of crew, and returned to demand for proper document as submitted earlier by NK side. Equally adamant on use of any third party. He noted we had both agreed that Pueblo was on intelligence gathering mission. Essential points, however, were for US [Page 692]side to admit that ship had entered NK territorial waters and had carried out hostile acts. At later point he noted that admission had to be accompanied by apology and assurances that acts would not be repeated. Pak noted that return of crew could then be discussed, implying procedure similar to that of helicopter pilots. Speaking in what US participants described as quite, persuasive manner, he said that if document of apology and assurance were submitted “You need not worry much about the delivery of your crew as there are precedents.”
Pak reopened possibility of some sort of reprisal against crew saying at one point they should be punished for their hostile acts and at another that because of USG procrastination, crew might have to pay appropriate price. Both statements were conditional and were not major part of his presentation.
At seventeenth meeting Woodward had indirectly and in low key indicated US might make negotiations public. Pak today made veiled reference to this by saying US would have more to lose by such action than NK.
Pak refused to comment directly either on health of Bucher or welfare of crew.3 On Bucher he said he had no knowledge of rumor we had cited and that he did not feel it necessary to clarify every rumor.4 With reference to crew, he referred US to his Feb 2 statement and, upon being pressed by Woodward, repeated statements he had made re Bucher. Upon again being pressed, he said we should not believe the rumor and if we were really interested in crew welfare to submit document of apology and assurance. Pak’s statements were sufficiently ambiguous to admit of interpretation either way. While evidence is very weak, we inclined to think he was saying Bucher and crew all right. We note that NKs did inform us of Hodge’s death, although they probably aware we knew he wounded.
Pak made clear he wishes to keep meetings going and referred twice to next meeting.5 From repeated references to crew welfare and reiteration of possible punishment Pak aware US concern for crew safety remains strong bargaining counter on NK side.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 33–6 KOR N–US. Secret; Immediate;Nodis; Cactus.
  2. Telegram 174524 to Seoul, May 31, transmitted Woodward’s instructions for this meeting; telegram 8221 from Seoul, June 27, transmitted the verbatim text of this meeting. (Both ibid.)
  3. In the wake of unconfirmed rumors about the health and welfare of the crew, including the alleged death of another crewman and the reported suicide of Bucher, Woodward was also instructed to request specific information from the North Koreans about the men’s physical and mental condition that, despite repeated requests by the senior member and the ICRC, had not been provided since they were taken captive. (Telegrams 182296, June 13, and 183139, June 14, to Seoul; both ibid.)
  4. Prior to this meeting and on instructions from the Department of State, a formal inquiry was made through the JDO on Bucher’s status, but no reply to the request for information had been received. (Telegrams 188397, June 21, and 190934, June 26, to Seoul, and telegram 8186 from Seoul, June 27; all ibid.) In a subsequent meeting at which the UNC presented another letter on the subject, the U.S. JDO was informed by the North Korean JDO that the matter must be handled through the Senior Members meetings. (Telegram 194259 to Seoul, July 1, and telegrams 8337 and 8348 from Seoul, both July 3; all ibid.)
  5. The next meeting was held on July 10, 11–11:45 a.m. KST. Woodward’s instructions for that meeting centered on requesting information about the health and welfare of the crew and addressing the issue of North Korean assurances of simultaneous release. (Telegram 196384 to Seoul, July 3; ibid.) Telegram 8475 from Seoul, July 10, transmitted a summary of the meeting, and telegram 8474 from Seoul, July 10, transmitted the verbatim text of the meeting. (Both ibid.)