48. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • U.S.-Korean Relations


  • President Johnson
  • President Chung Hee Park of Korea
  • Mr. Sang Ho Cho, President Park’s interpreter
  • Dr. Paul Crane, President Johnson’s interpreter

President Johnson said that the U.S. planned to extend all possible aid to Korea. It planned to keep its troops there, and no reduction of troop strength was contemplated. However, if there were an adjustment, President Park would be the first to know about it, and full consultation would be held beforehand.

President Johnson congratulated Park on the happy progress of the Korea-Japan negotiations and said that he considered President Park to be the chief ingredient in the success of these negotiations. He felt that it was due to Park’s leadership that things had been going so well. He realized that it had been a very tough and touchy problem. He felt that conclusion of the Korea-Japan treaty would also assist our mutual effort in Viet-Nam. President Park said he felt that the Korea-Japan negotiations could be concluded within a month, by early or middle June. He said that there were certain irresponsible people who were trying to block the negotiations, but he felt his public relations and other efforts would ensure conclusion of the agreement.

President Johnson congratulated President Park on his assistance in the struggle in Viet-Nam, and said, with reference to that aid that we would keep in Korea a military strength equivalent to that at present so that, in accordance with our commitments under the 1954 treaty,2 Korean security would not suffer.

President Johnson then emphasized how much more difficult it was now to get aid through Congress than it had been 20 years ago [Page 98] when the aid program first began. He said that the 2,000 Korean troops that had been sent to Viet-Nam in his opinion had helped save the aid bill in Congress. He asked President Park whether he felt additional Korean troops could be sent to Viet-Nam from Korea. President Park stated that the Korean Government would have to study that matter. The people in Korea were worried whether they might not invite further activity from North Korea if they weakened the line by sending too many troops to Viet-Nam. However, he said that he personally would like to send more troops to Viet-Nam. President Johnson then asked President Park if he could send one division. If President Park could raise the commitment to one division, this would help a great deal in the struggle there. President Park repeated that it was his personal feeling that Korea could make larger commitments of troops to Viet-Nam, but this would have to be studied by his Government, and he could not make a commitment on it at this time.

President Johnson said that at the present time he was searching for a diplomatic solution in Viet-Nam. He also hoped that eventually there could be a solution to the problem of the unification of Korea; but this would have to be done under the UN formula of UN supervision of free elections.

President Johnson said he wanted to tell the Korean Government that aid would be assured to that country and that the U.S. would finance essential imports and development loans, technical assistance, and food for peace. The impression the American Government had of Korea had never been better. After his visit to Korea, Dr. Rostow had reported great progress in the economic field.

President Park said he hoped very much that there would be no indication from Washington that there would be any withdrawal of UN troops from Korea. This sort of talk made it very difficult for him to help in Viet-Nam, because his own people became very disturbed any time there was any talk of withdrawal of UN troops from Korea. President Johnson referred to the strong support in the Congress for his Viet-Nam program and said he would see to it that Korea’s security is ensured, that troops and money enough will be provided to ensure this in accordance with the 1954 treaty. He said that, if any troops were to be removed from Korea, it would only be done with prior consultation.

President Johnson said he believed that, if they can get an agreement or some basis for agreement in South Viet-Nam, this would also relieve the pressure from North Korea. He hoped that the Australians, the Filipinos, and New Zealanders would all help in Viet-Nam and he also hoped to get a Korean division into Viet-Nam so that they could get a total of 70,000 to 80,000 troops in Viet-Nam from various nations to be able to win there.

[Page 99]

On the status of forces agreement President Johnson stated that Ambassador Brown was working on that problem and that we would follow the same formula as was used in Germany. This had worked very well in Germany and should work well in Korea. He was glad the negotiations were going ahead well; but he did not think they could be concluded during this State Visit. President Park said that he thought these negotiations had gone on too long and were becoming a major irritant to many of his people, particularly the Opposition. He hoped President Johnson would break into the negotiations with an order to somehow bring them to a speedy conclusion.

President Park said 1967 was the last year of his first economic development program and that a second five-year development program was planned. Koreans would need continued assistance from the U.S. to help them with this. President Johnson spoke of the $100 billion foreign aid which the U.S. had given since World War II to countries overseas and the 160,000 U.S. casualties which we have suffered since World War II. He said there were many people in Congress who had opposed spending this $100 billion. The way that some countries acted made it very difficult to get aid out of Congress. He said that when Sukarno burns USIA libraries and offices, people in Congress are of a mind to cut off all foreign aid. He considered Korea’s conduct very helpful. He said that Park’s policy in Korea went all the way in backing up the Viet-Nam effort, and again he stated that this was a great help to him and that it improved the military situation in Viet-Nam.

Asked whether the Koreans had asked any other nations in Asia to help out in Viet-Nam, President Park said no they had not. President Johnson said the U.S. feels the same way about its commitments in Viet-Nam and Korea, and feels that Korea has been the greatest assistance in helping to bring pressure to bear so that other countries like Australia and New Zealand would come in. Britain, he realized, was very much occupied in Malaysia. The President concluded by repeating the hope that Korea would increase its commitment to one division.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Korea, Memos, Vol. II, July 1964 to August 1965. Secret. Drafted by Crane, and approved by the White House May 28. The meeting took place in the Oval Office. The time and place of the meeting are from the President’s Daily Diary. (Ibid.) Earlier in the day the President and Mrs. Johnson hosted the arrival ceremony for Pak, his wife, and members of his party on the South Grounds of the White House at 11:40 a.m. (Ibid.) The remarks made by Presidents Johnson and Pak at that time are in Department of State Bulletin, June 14, 1965, pp. 950–952.
  2. The Mutual Defense Treaty between the United States and the ROK was signed at Washington on October 1, 1953, and went into effect on November 17, 1954. (5 UST 2368)