115. Letter From President Nixon to Korean President Park 1
Dear Mr. President:
Thank you for your recent letter in which you comment on the problems of East Asia and their effect on the Korean peninsula.2 I have read your letter very carefully and have also carefully reviewed the presentation of these views which your Foreign Minister provided to Secretary Rogers and to Dr. Kissinger when he met with them at the end of September.3
At the very outset, I should like you to know how much I appreciate the generous and helpful support you and your Government have given to our effects to lessen tensions in Asia. It is my earnest hope that my forthcoming visit to the People’s Republic of China will contribute to the development of a stable and peaceful situation in East [Page 294]Asia and in the Pacific area. By opening a dialogue between ourselves and the Chinese leadership, this journey can lead to better understanding on both sides of the deep and complex differences between ourselves and the People’s Republic. Gradually and over a longer period, such discussions can result in a reduction of tensions in Asia, which would benefit all nations in that area.
You can be sure, Mr. President, that in taking steps toward the goal of a peaceful Asia, the United States will not overlook the interest of its allies and friends nor seek any accommodations at their expense. My talks in Peking will not deal with issues primarily involving third countries, but rather will be concerned with bilateral issues between the United States and the People’s Republic of China. Should issues affecting Korea be raised by the People’s Republic of China, I will of course affirm our strong ties with the Republic of Korea. And, as we assured Foreign Minister Kim during his visit, the United States will continue to consult closely with your Government on issues which affect the security of the Korean peninsula.
The Republic of Korea has taken its own initiative to reduce tensions by proposing and carrying on talks with the Red Cross societies of the Republic and of North Korea. While I note that the purpose of these talks is to ease the painful separation that has afflicted so many Korean families for so many years, I am encouraged that your Government believes these talks may also lead in due course to the development of further communication and exchange with the north. This is a hopeful sign. I recognize, of course, that the capacity for aggression on the part of the north remains considerable. Nevertheless, the strength of the Korean armed forces and the confidence and dedication of your nation provide a firm and growing deterrent to the kind of aggression from the north to which you refer in your letter.
As I said on assuming office, and have frequently repeated since, the United States has no intention of disengaging from Asia. We intend to honor all of our treaty commitments. None of these obligations is more important to peace and stability in Asia than our Mutual Defense Treaty with your country. The modernization of Korea’s military forces which is currently being implemented is clear evidence of United States concern for the defense of Korea. Your own willingness to provide an increasing portion of Korea’s defense requirements is equally clear evidence of the maturity of the Korean economy and of the national pride and self-reliance that has won such great respect for the Republic of Korea in America and around the world.
As regards the withdrawal of additional United States troops now stationed in the Republic of Korea, it is our policy under the Nixon Doctrine not to reduce our forces overseas more rapidly than would be consistent with the increasing capabilities of the host country. As we have previously stated, the United States does not now have plans for the withdrawal of additional troops stationed in your country. You can [Page 295]be sure that, before deciding on additional force reductions in the Republic of Korea, we will consult fully with you and will undertake with you a joint assessment of any threat to your country’s security.
The events which are now taking place in East Asia may well have a profound effect on the nations of the Pacific for the remainder of this century. I look to your continued support, Mr. President, to help ensure that these events will move us all in the direction of a stable and enduring international order. May I assure you of my highest personal regards and warm good wishes.4
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 757, Presidential Correspondence 1969–1974, Korea, President Chung Hee Park, 1971. Secret. Copies were sent to Holdridge, Rosemary Woods, and the Department of State. A notation on the letter reads: “Dispatched via SS, Rept # 2843, @ 1830 29 Nov.” On November 24, Holdridge sent a draft of this letter to Kissinger with the recommendation that he sign the attached covering memorandum and send both it and the draft letter to the President. On November 26, Kissinger sent the letter to Nixon with the recommendation that he sign it. All attached but not printed.↩
- Park’s September 16 letter to Nixon was hand-delivered to Rogers on September 21. Attached but not printed. In his covering memorandum to Nixon, Kissinger noted that Park broached his concerns in his September 16 letter that the two governments “have a thorough exchange of views in advance” of Nixon’s trip to China, that the U.S. “expedite modernization of the Korean armed forces,” and that the U.S. “not accept Peking’s call for the removal of foreign troops from the Korean Peninsula.”↩
- See Documents 109 and 110.↩
- Nixon’s letter to Park was transmitted in telegram 219526 to Seoul, December 6. The telegram advised Habib that “there is no possibility for Park–Nixon meeting prior to President’s visit to China. We would like therefore to utilize letter to assuage Park’s sensibilities. Accordingly, you should seek appointment with Park to deliver letter and explain President greatly regrets meeting not possible.” Habib was then advised: “We are aware of ROKG need for some public demonstration of our concern for protection of Korea’s interests, as well as Park’s problem of ‘face.’ Accordingly, in delivering letter to President Park you may say that we will understand if he desires to let press know that he has received personal letter of assurance from President stating that no agreements will be made in Peking regarding Korea.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 542, Country Files, Far East, Korea, Vol. IV, 1 Jan–31 Dec 1971) Habib delivered the letter on December 13; see Document 119.↩