345. Memorandum From Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff to President Johnson 1
Purpose of seeing Winthrop Brown, our new Ambassador to Korea, is so you can tell him personally why you want movement on our Korean policy, especially a Korean/Japanese settlement. Five minutes should suffice.2
We’ve poured into South Korea more than $6.6 billion in aid ($3.8 billion economic, $2.8 billion military) since World War II. Despite all our aid, this nation is still an unstable U.S. stepchild. Part of the problem is the absence of leadership after years of Japanese occupation, but part stems from bad planning and neglect by the U.S.
Brown is a top man (he did a great job as our man in Laos 1960–62); he’ll follow through on what you tell him. Suggested talking points are:
- You are concerned over the long and frustrating record of U.S. involvement in Korea—with so little to show for it. We simply can’t keep paying with so few results (we’re planning $350–400 million in aid for FY 1965).
- So you give top priority to the long-delayed Korea-Japan settlement. Let’s get Japan to start sharing the burden. Aside from $600 million in Jap aid which a settlement would bring, we want to redevelop the natural economic ties between Korea and Japan. Brown should tell Reischauer in Tokyo your views when he goes through en route.
- You’ll put personal weight behind getting a settlement in any way necessary.
- To start off, Rusk suggests attached oral message 3 for Brown to deliver to President Park. We have word that Park has told his new [Page 764]foreign minister to give priority to a settlement, so these words will come at a good time.
- You are personally inclined to cut our 50,000 U.S. troops in Korea; our needs are more in Southeast Asia. Defense of Korea is vital; but can’t we do it with fewer men? Such big ROK armed forces (550,000) are also a terrible drag on the economy of such a poor country. You’ve held off on these cuts because they might give the wrong signal to the Chicoms just now, but Brown should keep a close eye on when it might be feasible.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Korea, Vol. II. Secret.↩
- The President, Komer, and Brown met at the White House on July 31 from 6:18 to 6:22 p.m. In reply to President Johnson’s inquiry about “prospects for political stability in Korea and for an early settlement with Japan,” Brown briefly informed the President of the current situation. The President told Brown “that he regarded an early settlement between Korea and Japan as a matter of top priority.” (Memorandum of conversation, August 10; ibid.)↩
- Transmitted by a July 28 memorandum to President Johnson from Rusk asking the President to approve the message and pointing out that it “would be a good means of pressing the Koreans to go ahead” and could be used by Brown in “conversations with Korean Opposition leaders and with Japanese Government officials.” (Ibid., Komer Files, Japan-Korea) The President approved the message, Brown discussed the issue with leaders of several Korean political parties between September 10 and 18. Memoranda of those conversations are attached to airgram A–170 from Seoul, September 22. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 12 KOR S)↩
- A memorandum of this November 25, 1963, conversation is printed in Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XXII, Document 318.↩