77. Memorandum From Richard H. Solomon of the National Security Council Staff to Secretary of State Kissinger1


  • The PRC and Termination of the U.N. Command in Korea
[Page 477]

You will recall that last summer, in preparing our position on the Korean issue for the fall session of the U.N. General Assembly, you indicated to PRC officials that we would be willing to reconsider the future of the U.N. Command (UNC) if UNCURK were dissolved in a non-contentious manner. On June 19, 1973 you handed a note to Ambassador Huang Chen2 which contained the following paragraph:

Following the 28th session to the U.N. General Assembly, the United States will be prepared to discuss ways in which the question of the U.N. Command might be resolved, with the understanding that any adjustment of security arrangements will not result in a diminution of the security situation on the Korean Peninsula.

The PRC in fact played an important role in managing the Korean issue at the General Assembly session in November in such a manner that UNCURK died a quiet death. Thus, the Chinese undoubtedly expect some indication from us of our intentions regarding the future of UNC. Indeed, as noted below, both the North Koreans and the Chinese have already staked out initial positions on the UNC in public statements issued late last month.

The USG position on the future of the U.N. Command is embodied in NSDM 251, which you signed on March 29.3 It directs that we seek ROK concurrence to a substitute arrangement in place of the UNC which would contain the following elements:

  • —Substitution of U.S. and ROK military commanders for the Commander-in-Chief United Nations Command as our side’s signatory to the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement. the ROK and North Korean representatives should then become the principal members of the Military Armistice Commission.
  • —Tacit acceptance by the other side of a continued U.S. force presence in South Korea for at least the short term, in return for a Shanghai-type communiqué committing ourselves to reduce and ultimately withdraw U.S. forces as the security situation on the Peninsula is stabilized.
  • —A non-aggression pact between the two Koreas.
  • —U.N. Security Council endorsement of the agreed-upon package of substitute security arrangements.
  • —Avoidance of other changes in the Armistice Agreement.

Once the ROK has agreed to these points (or we have negotiated a mutually acceptable alternative arrangement based on them), we [Page 478] would pursue a two-track negotiating strategy based on Seoul carrying the burden of contacts with Pyongyang, while the U.S. attempts to backstop the ROK and place constraints on Pyongyang through consultations with Peking.

Ambassador Habib presented our negotiating proposal to Foreign Minister Kim Dong Jo on April 9. He expects agreement with Seoul on a package proposal which could be presented to Pyongyang and Peking “within a few weeks.” While you thus may not want to indicate to Teng and Ch’iao in great detail the contents of our proposal pending agreement with the ROK, it seems important that you give them a clear signal that we are moving on this issue. In addition, you may wish to give them a general feel of what we have in mind regarding an alternative arrangement to the UNC. A series of talking points on this subject written from the above perspective are included at the end of this memo.4

While Peking was decidedly helpful to us last fall in handling the Korean issue at the U.N., the unsettled state of China’s domestic political scene and the more strident tone of her recent foreign policy statements have injected some uncertainty into our estimate of what role Peking may be willing or able to play on the UNC issue over the coming months. On March 27 the People’s Daily indirectly expressed support for a proposal put forward by North Korean Foreign Minister Ho Tam two days earlier calling for a peace treaty to be negotiated directly between North Korea and the United States. the PRC editorial directly supported the following position:

The U.S. government should remove the beret of “UN Forces” from the U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, pull out lock, stock, and barrel together with all their arms and equipment, stop its military assistance to the Pak Chong-hui clique of South Korea, and cease instigating this clique to make savage provocations against the northern half of the republic.

Our guess is that Peking will respond in generally favorable terms to our alternate arrangement for abolition of the UNC if it can be presented to Pyongyang as a transitional arrangement which would hold out some possibility for the eventual realization of North Korea’s maximum goal of a complete U.S. withdrawal from Korea.

The North Koreans have sought to press the idea of a peace treaty negotiated between Pyongyang and Washington by appealing directly to our Congress for support. Pyongyang’s observer mission to the U.N. made attempts in early April to get our U.N. mission to transmit an official proposal from their Supreme People’s Assembly to the Congress. US UN turned aside the North Korean appeal for assistance in [Page 479] transmitting the proposal. You should indicate to the Chinese that North Korea’s attempts to deal with the U.S. directly will not be welcomed until there is a reciprocal willingness on the part of Peking to have contact with Seoul, and that Pyongyang’s efforts to sow distrust between the U.S. and ROK will not create a climate conducive to the negotiation of new security arrangements between North and South Korea.

Pyongyang will probably attempt to have the Korean issue debated in the General Assembly again this year in order to apply pressure on the UNC issue. You should emphasize to the Chinese our belief that it will be most effective if North and South work out their differences in direct, confidential talks rather than polarizing the situation by public debate in an international forum. Thus, we believe it is most useful to progress on this issue if Seoul and Pyongyang can reach agreement on an alternative to the UNC in private talks. Their agreed position can then be endorsed by the U.N. Security Council.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 96, Country Files, Far East, China Exchanges, April 1–August 8, 1974. Top Secret; Sensitive. Sent for action.
  2. See Document 37.
  3. Material on NSDM 251 is in National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–246, National Security Decision Memoranda, NSDM 251.
  4. Attached but not printed.