149. Memorandum From John H. Holdridge of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • State’s Analysis of North Korean Premier Kim Il-song’s Proposals of June 21

At Tab A is a memorandum to you from State2 analyzing Kim Il-song’s proposals he made in an interview June 21 with Selig Harrison of the Washington Post. Kim laid out a four-phase troop reduction for the Korean Peninsula, expressed an interest in a summit with South Korean President Park, and reiterated his standard positions on dismantling the U.N. presence in South Korea and on the usefulness of increased people-to-people contacts between North Korea and the U.S.

State suggests that Kim’s immediate objective in broaching the proposals in this forum was to pressure Seoul to agree to make public the secret North-South political contacts that have been under way since late March. [Whether because of this pressure from Kim or for other reasons, Seoul decided last week to agree to a joint communiqué with the North announcing the existence of the talks, and this is to be made public July 4.]3

State analyzes Kim’s four-phase troop reduction plan as follows: (The four phases are demilitarization of the DMZ, reduction of North and South Korean forces by 150,000–200,000 each, conclusion of a North-South peace pact, and last, the withdrawal of U.S. forces and the reduction of the armed forces on both sides to 100,000.) What is new in Kim’s proposed demilitarization of the DMZ is not the idea itself—this has previously been proposed by our senior U.N. negotiator in the Military Armistice Commission and by South Korea—but the modality: Kim’s proposal that it be negotiated between Seoul and Pyongyang directly. This, of course, would undercut the U.N. role in Korea, a prime first objective of North Korea [and one that it is pursuing as regards next fall’s U.N. General Assembly session, which it would like to see abolish UNCURK and nullify the 1950 aggressor resolutions].

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As regards Kim’s second phase, State comments that the proposal for an interim reduction is new; Kim in the second point of his Eight Point Program for Korean Reunification (broached in April 1971) called for the reduction of armed forces North and South to 100,000 or less. The proposed interim reduction would leave South Korea with an advantage of 150,000–200,000 more troops over the North (the present strengths are 612,000 for South Korea and 383,000 for North Korea). [Seoul’s apparent military advantage would be offset at least in part by what is regarded as the generally superior North Korean reserve force system, numbering between 900,000 and a million. In addition, it assumes that Kim would agree to effective verification of force reductions, and that Kim believes agreement on such an interim reduction could really be achieved.]

As State suggests, Kim no doubt intended the surface political appeal of his proposals to cause the South problems.

  • —It will stimulate contention internally in South Korea, particularly with the secret North-South political contacts soon to be out in the open. Kim probably believes that his tight political control in the North gives him a basic advantage over his rival, beset with political and social tensions always simmering just beneath the surface and much more vulnerable to foreign criticism of authoritarian political methods.
  • Kim probably hopes his proposals, like his insistence on immediate high-level discussion of the basic political issues dividing North and South in order to move toward détente, will cause problems for Park Chung-hee with the U.S. and Japan. (Korean Ambassador Kim Dong-jo on June 30 protested Secretary Rogers’ use of the term “DPRK” to Under Secretary Johnson. Seoul was also disturbed that we had not consulted with it before taking this step, as they noted Secretary Rogers on March 7 had said we would when he stated that the U.S. was interested in improving relations with North Korea.)
  • Kim probably hopes that, in the current atmosphere of détente, such proposals will improve North Korea’s international image and put South Korea on the defensive, particularly as regards the upcoming U.N. General Assembly debate.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 543, Country Files, Far East, Korea, Vol. V, 1 Jan–31 Dec 1972, Part 2. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. Initialed by Froebe. A notation on the memorandum indicates that Kissinger saw it.
  2. Dated June 26, attached but not printed.
  3. All brackets are in the original. See footnote 3, Document 147.