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

10159. Subj: 22nd Senior MAC Members Closed Mtg and Panmunjom Sep 30, 1968. Ref: Seoul 9889.2

Meeting began at 1100 hrs Sep 30 and ended 1219 hrs local time.3 Gen Woodward commented that Gen Pak had never been so polite.
Gen Pak made opening statement, restating standard NK line, but ending with commitment to release crew simultaneously on signature of apology.
Gen Pak at same time handed Gen. Woodward copy in English and Korean of exact statement to be signed. Complete text in English as follows:

“To the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea the Government of the USA, acknowledging the validity of the confessions of the crew of the USS Pueblo and of the documents of evidence produced by the rep of the Government of the DPRK to the effect that the ship, which was seized by the self-defense measures of the naval vessels of the Korean People’s Army in the territorial waters of the DPRK on January 23, 1968, had illegally intruded into the territorial waters of the DPRK on many occasions and conducted espionage activities of spying out important military and state secrets of the DPRK.”

“Shoulders full responsibility and solemnly apologizes for the grave acts of espionage committed by the US ship against the DPRK after having intruded into the territorial waters of the DPRK,

“And gives firm assurance that no US ships will intrude again in future into the territorial waters of the DPRK.

“Meanwhile, the Government of the USA earnestly requests the Government of the DPRK to deal leniently with the former crew members [Page 708]of the USS Pueblo confiscated by the DPRK side, taking into consideration the fact that these crew members have confessed honestly to their crimes and petitioned the Government of the DPRK for leniency.

“Simultaneously with the signing of this document, the undersigned acknowledges receipt of 82 former crew members of the Pueblo and one corpse.

“On behalf of the Government of the USA: Gilbert H. Woodward, Maj Gen, USA”

Since Pak’s statement and document he presented to Gen Woodward answered questions regarding nature of signature and simultaneity raised State 242963,4 Gen Woodward proceeded to press Gen Pak as to whether NK side prepared to release crew within 24 hours if he were to acknowledge receipt of them on the document which Gen Pak had handed him.
Gen Pak replied that question of procedures on delivery and receipt of the crew could be discussed at next meeting. Gen Woodward did not press further as it obvious Gen Pak had no instructions regarding time of release.
Gen Woodward did not raise points raised State 2459795 regarding additional “intrusions.”
We intend to tell ROKG at this stage only that NK side has agreed to simultaneous release and that “acknowledgement of receipt” question has not been resolved. ROKG may suspect on the other hand that agreement is near and problem of briefing them (FonOff) at this time is becoming acute.
Dispatch now of public relations team mentioned State 2467496 would certainly feed this impression and might lead to speculation jeopardizing chances of release. We continue to believe team should not be sent until all arrangements for release completed.
If US should agree to present NK proposal, it would be imperative that Amb give Pres Park full briefing at least 24 hrs before time of actual release, though this will entail certain risks. We will need all the cooperation we can get from ROKG in handling public relations problem here. It is also highly desirable that simultaneous announcement of release be made in Washington and Seoul.
If US should decline present NK proposal danger exists that NK side may release text of document stating that US has refused offer for return of crew.
Embassy pouching Korean text of NK document.7 Korean text appears to coincide closely with English version.
Department will note heading on NK document of “to the government of the DPRK “ in heavy block letters. To best of Embassy’s knowledge this salutation has not previously been used in any dealing with NK. Phrase has appeared in body of military documents such as receipt signed by Gen Combs for helicopter pilots in 1964. Dept will also wish to note language of concluding para of document which is combination of simultaneity, signature, and receipt. Gen Woodward states that tone of meeting such that he expects notification NK side ready for US call next meeting in very near future.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 33–6 KOR N–US. Secret; Immediate;Nodis; Cactus.
  2. Document 313.
  3. Telegram 10157 from Seoul, September 30, transmitted the verbatim text of this meeting. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 33–6 KOR N–US) Telegram 10159 and the verbatim text were given to President Johnson under a September 30 covering memorandum from Rostow in which he stated he thought the ploy would work and added: “Although the device is a trick, I must say that Woodward is so clear in this exchange as to what he is doing that we have a good basis for defending our position if, in fact, the release does take place.” Rostow’s memorandum indicates the President saw the documents. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Korea—Pueblo Incident—Cactus IV, Cactus Miscellaneous Papers, February to December 1968)
  4. Document 315.
  5. Telegram 245979 to Seoul, September 27, provided Woodward with instructions in case Pak raised allegations of 11 additional intrusions into North Korean territorial waters based on records found aboard the Pueblo. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 33–6 KOR N–US)
  6. Telegram 246749 to Seoul, September 27, informed the Embassy that the Departments of State and Defense intended to send to Seoul “officials concerned with post-release problems,” composed of both military and civilian representatives. (Ibid.)
  7. Not found.