315. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Korea1

242963. Subject: Instructions for 22nd Meeting.

Progress at last meeting makes it appear at least possible that overwrite ploy will work and next meeting should be used to press it hard. We note that Pak constantly reiterates idea that Woodward will “sign” but never himself contrasts or probes distinction between “sign” and Woodward's language. It may thus be that Pak will be satisfied with making a negotiating record to support contention Woodward is “signing” while allowing us to keep our own negotiating record clean of any assent to his assertion. Such agreement to disagree on record would satisfy us, particularly since audiences receptive to NK propaganda are not likely to pore over transcripts of talks, and careful reading by impartial observers will bear us out.
Pak will presumably open next meeting by restating assurance given at last meeting that crew will be returned “if your side signs document of May 8” and asking if Woodward can now agree to sign. Or he may again state his “understanding” that Woodward is ready to sign (as in para 25 of Seoul 9890)2 and ask Woodward's concurrence.
In either case Woodward should respond as follows: “I have repeatedly asked you whether you agree to release the crew at the same time as I acknowledge that I am receiving them. You have repeatedly responded that I am reiterating a question which has already been made clear, because you are well aware that I insist on the simultaneous release of the entire crew and your side has already agreed to their release under certain conditions. You then have repeatedly asked me whether, when I spoke of a document whose language was satisfactory to you, I had in mind the document which you presented here on May 8. Since your side presented that draft, our side of course assumes that its language is satisfactory to you, even though its language does not reflect what we believe to be the true facts of this case and is in other respects inaccurate. The answer to your question is therefore yes, your draft of May 8 is obviously a document such as we had in mind. I am now prepared to state that if tomorrow you will release to me the entire crew, I will tomorrow acknowledge on your draft of May 8 that I am receiving them. I assume that this statement on my part will now make it possible for us to take the next step, that is, to discuss the specific arrangements for the release of the crew tomorrow. Is that correct?”
Pak will presumably respond by noting “that your side intends to sign our document of apology and assurance presented May 8” and will say that he cannot possibly make any arrangements for the next day, that he must consult with his authorities, etc. He will probably again seek ratification by Woodward of his “understanding” of US position.
Woodward should handle such efforts along following lines: “You are misquoting me. You have said that under certain conditions your side would release the entire crew. I have said that under certain conditions I would be prepared to acknowledge receipt of the crew on your document of May 8. For example, if you will agree to release the entire crew tomorrow, then I can agree today that I will tomorrow acknowledge their receipt on your May 8 document. I see no reason why the crew cannot be brought here tomorrow. (Woodward may expand on this point as he judges appropriate.) You say that these specific arrangements cannot be carried through tomorrow. I ask, why not? And if it really is not possible, then when can the crew be brought here? How long will it take you to assemble and transport them? These are the specific arrangements which you said could be discussed if I would indicate my general acceptance of your demand that your document of May 8 be used when I acknowledge that I am receiving the crew. Let us now move on to discuss these specific arrangements. I await your answer to my question on when the release can take place.”
As you see, our object in foregoing is to draw Pak into discussions on time and place of release, bypassing any discussion of what [Page 706]Pak calls “detailed matters concerning signing of the document”. It might, for example, be easier for Pak to agree to simultaneity if he did not have to agree to it in principle but only had to talk of fixing dates. We do not expect any commitment on time at this meeting but Woodward should hammer at necessity for firm date as next move, while avoiding any unconditional statement of our willingness to use May 8 document, i.e., absent their agreement to imminent, simultaneous release.
As you can gather, it is most helpful to have on record repeated restatements of whatever commitments Pak has authority to make, not merely for sake of negotiating record, but in order to be sure they are solid commitments and not merely result of slip by Pak or his translators.
After squeezing from Pak as much blood as this turnip has in it, Woodward should attempt to close meeting on following lines: “You have said that despite statements I have made you still are not ready to discuss with me the time and place for the release of the crew. I propose that we recess until 11 a.m. tomorrow so that you can obtain the authority to discuss that matter. Do you agree?”
We doubt that Pak will, in fact, agree to reconvene after 24 hours or any other specified pause, but Woodward should press on above lines to indicate that US side demands minimum and clearly specified delay from moment when it gives unconditional agreement to acknowledging receipt on May 8 document. (See FYI at end of para 11, State 237348.)3
If Pak should indicate either firm or approximate date when crew might be released, Woodward should propose meeting 24 hours in advance “to reach final agreement and make final arrangements on the conditions of the release”.
We would prefer that next meeting come quickly and in your discretion you may indicate to other side that we are ready.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 33–6 KOR N–US. Secret; Nodis; Cactus. Drafted by Leonard; cleared by Brown, Walsh, and Steadman; and approved by Katzenbach. Rostow forwarded a copy of telegram 242963 to President Johnson at the ranch in Texas as CAP 82460 with an opening paragraph indicating that Rusk and Clifford cleared the instructions. Rostow told Johnson that Clifford accepted the approach after he “understood the North Koreans were clear about the ambiguity.” Rostow reported that Katzenbach did not “think the other side will accept, but it's worth playing the hand.” (Telegram CAP 82460 from Rostow to Johnson, September 22, Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Korea—Pueblo Incident—Cactus Ib, Cactus State Cables, March 1 to September 30, 1968)
  2. Paragraph 25 in telegram 9890 from Seoul, September 17, quotes Pak as stating: “I understand that this statement of yours implies that your side is ready to sign the document presented by our side on May 8 to have the crew sent back. If you agree to this understanding of mine, specific matters, including the matter concerned with your side's signing the document will be discussed later on.” Woodward replied that he made no implications and simply wanted to understand Pak's position. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 33–6 KOR N–US)
  3. The referenced portion of paragraph 11 in telegram 237348 to Seoul, September 12, reads: “Though we cannot accept any delay between actual signed acknowledgment and release we probably could accept 48 hours between agreement to acknowledge receipt and release. If Pak suggests something like that Woodward should note it as firm offer which will be reported to Washington.” (Ibid.)