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

9889. Subject: 21st Senior MAC Members Closed Meeting at Panmunjom Sept 17, 1968. Reference: Seoul 9475.2

Meeting began 1100 hours Sep 17 and ended 1452 hours local time.3 Length of meeting was due to persistent efforts on part of both sides to probe position of other side, with long pauses required to write out statements.
Some clarification of NK position emerged from General Woodward’s questioning of Pak. The North Korean side went on record as stating flatly that the crew of the Pueblo would be released if the US would sign and submit the North Korean document of May 8. Second position of NK was that if US side agreed to sign and submit May 8 document the NK side would be prepared to discuss the specifics of the release of the crew and the signing of the document.
At no time was General Pak willing to reply directly to General Woodward’s questions regarding simultaneous release. Presumption [Page 701]is that simultaneous release is one of specific details which would be discussed after US agreed to sign May 8 document. We note that Pak made no effort to find out what we meant by “acknowledge receipt.” Again the presumption is that this is one of specific details to be settled after US agreement to sign.
We also note that Pak did not at this meeting mention existing precedent in connection with release of crew. Failure to mention precedent may have no particular significance as again, all questions of this nature presumably included amongst details to be settled later.
General Pak made several efforts to find out if by language acceptable to NK side, we meant their May 8 document. These efforts frustrated by General Woodward.
Typical statement of Pak setting forth first position mentioned paragraph 2 above was as follows: “I clearly stated that our side will send back to your side the crew of the Pueblo only if your side signs the document presented by our side at the meeting of May 8 last.”
Second position NK side mentioned para 2 above was expressed by Pak in following language: “I have also stated that if your side indicates its willingness to sign the document presented by our side on May 8 detailed matters concerning signing of the document and return of the crew will be discussed.”
General Woodward raised question of visit to NK of father of Angelo Strano.4 General Pak flatly refused to deal with question stating that “this is not the place to arrange for issuance of a visa.”
Meeting closed with General Pak asking for reply from US side at next meeting to question of whether US prepared to sign May 8 document. General Woodward’s impression is that NKs, as result of question raised by US at 20th meeting and recent press furor, think that the US is prepared to sign. If this impression correct, NKs have incentive to call next meeting at reasonably early date.
  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 9475 from Seoul, August 29, transmitted a summary of the previous senior MAC members meeting. (Ibid.) For this meeting Woodward was instructed to press Pak to answer his previous question relative to simultaneous signature of a receipt and release of the crew. (Telegram 237348 to Seoul, September 12; ibid.) Instructions covering other eventualities were transmitted in telegram 238737 to Seoul, September 14. (Ibid.)
  3. Telegram 9890 from Seoul, September 17, transmitted the verbatim text of this meeting. (Ibid.)
  4. The parents of crew member Strano met with Benjamin Fleck, Country Director for Korea, in Washington on July 17, at which time Mr. Strano voiced his desire to go to North Korea to attempt to free his son and his expectation that the U.S. Government would arrange his entry. The matter was discussed with Katzenbach and brought to Rusk’s attention. (Memorandum from Brown to Rusk, July 25; ibid.) The Department agreed to submit his request to the North Koreans, and Woodward was asked to do so in his instructions for the 20th closed meeting. (Telegram 210445 to Seoul, July 27; ibid.)