153. Minutes of a Senior Review Group Meeting1


  • Korea/UN


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
  • U. Alexis Johnson
  • Samuel DePalma
  • Michael Armacost
  • Donald Ranard
  • Defense
  • G. Warren Nutter
  • Dennis Doolin
  • JCS
  • Brig. Gen. Arthur Hanket
  • Capt. William Morgan
  • CIA
  • Richard Helms [name not declassified]
  • Treas
  • Edwin Cohen
  • Gerald Nensel
  • NSC
  • Richard Kennedy
  • John Holdridge
  • Richard Solomon
  • Fernando Rondon
  • Mark Wandler


It was agreed that:

  • —We should try to postpone for another year the UN debate on the Korean question. However, if we don’t succeed, we should try to defer the debate until after the election. In the meantime, we should try to get better estimates of the way other governments will vote on this issue, and we should not talk to the ROKs about contingency plans.
  • —Option 3—a modification of a conditional invitation to the two Koreas—would probably be acceptable to all sides. We should give more consideration to this option.2
  • —State should prepare a more detailed analysis of the issues with regard to UNCURK and the UN Command for consideration by the SRG at the end of September.

Mr. Kissinger: I thought we should have a review of the Korean issue today because it could come up a little later in two ways. The first issue is a procedural one—whether an attempt will be made to put the Korean item on the agenda of the General Assembly and [Page 391] whether we should try to defer the debate? Second, if we don’t succeed, if we lose the General Assembly vote, what general stance do we take on the other matters: the type of invitation to the two Koreas, UNCURK and the UN Command?

The two issues are distinct, but related. If we win on the first one, the procedural issue, the second one becomes less urgent.

(to Mr. Johnson) Alex, do you or Sam (DePalma) want to discuss these issues in more detail?

Mr. Johnson: I’ll let Sam do that. I just want to say, though, that I think at this moment the postponement approach looks reasonably doable.

Mr. DePalma: I don’t think it’s worth it to describe the issues in long detail, so I will keep my remarks brief. I must also warn you that it is too soon to be confident about our estimates. Right now, we seem to be in good shape in the General Committee. At least we’re in better shape than we were last year, when we were able to defer the debate. In the end, we think the Committee vote will be thirteen for deferment, seven against and four abstentions, provided the present vote trend holds. Our estimate for the General Assembly vote is less solid, but we think there will be a fifteen or twenty vote margin in favor of deferment.

Mr. Kissinger: I’m trying to understand how this issue will unfold procedurally. Let’s say the General Committee votes for deferment. The issue then goes to the General Assembly. Is that right?

Mr. DePalma: Yes. And an appeal against the General Committee’s recommendation will probably be made in the Assembly.

Mr. Kissinger: When would that happen?

Mr. DePalma: Fairly soon—probably one or two days—after the General Committee votes on the question.

Mr. Kissinger: And if an appeal were made in the Assembly, there would be a debate on the procedural issue of the types of invitations to be issued? Is that right?

Mr. DePalma: There would be general debate on the substantive issues, too.

Mr. Kissinger: Would it be an acrimonious debate?

Mr. DePalma: I don’t think so. My guess is that everybody would try to take reasonable and moderate positions. I don’t think the debate would heat up very much. We would say, given the evolving situation of the talks, we should leave both Koreas alone and let them try to work out their differences themselves. I think the other side would tend to be compelled to follow the same strategy, too.

Mr. Kissinger: You don’t think, then, that there would be a high-powered debate?

[Page 392]

Mr. DePalma: No, I don’t.

Mr. Johnson: If the North and South are talking at that time, there probably wouldn’t be a high-powered debate in the Assembly.

Mr. DePalma: I should point out one other thing, though. We’ve never had a situation before where the Chinese and the Soviets are out trying to do something together. We know the Chinese position, but the Soviets have not shown their hand yet, although they have talked about supporting the Chinese. We should take into account the fact that they may work in concert on this issue.

Also, as Alex just said, we will be in a better position if the talks are going again.

Mr. Johnson: They started again today.

Mr. DePalma: Good. If they are suspended when the Assembly considers the matter, the North could say the talks won’t resume again until the Assembly takes affirmative action from the North’s point of view.

Since both sides have not yet hit most governments at high levels on this entire question, we don’t know for sure how the governments will vote. Nor do we know how the governments will react in the face of strong pressures from one side or the other. Therefore, there is some uneasiness about our estimates, which are based on low-level contacts.

If we decide not to do any arm-twisting for votes, the final outcome may depend to some degree on how hard the other side fights. I think the Chinese will fight hard, but it won’t be an all-out effort.

As I say, there is some uneasiness with our estimates. Still, I think we ought to be able to get the deferment.

Mr. Kissinger: If we win in the General Committee but lose in the General Assembly, will the issue then be referred to the First Committee?

Mr. DePalma: Yes, unless the Committee recommends it be referred directly to the Plenary—and the Plenary accepts this recommendation.

Mr. Kissinger: If that were done, it would avoid the invitation question, right?

Mr. DePalma: Yes. And I think we should give some consideration to this approach.

Mr. Kissinger: Assuming the issue is referred to the First Committee, when would the Committee take it up? About six weeks after the General Committee and Plenary’s action?

Mr. DePalma: Yes, although it could be taken up four weeks after the General Committee’s action.

Mr. Kissinger: That would be at the end of the election campaign.

Mr. DePalma: I would say on the eve of the election.

Mr. Johnson: Could we stretch it out so that the First Committee doesn’t take it up until after the election?

[Page 393]

Mr. DePalma: Yes, I think that would be fairly easy to do.

Mr. Kissinger: Even if it came up before the election, I think our domestic opponents would be hurt more by an adverse outcome than we would be. Nevertheless, it’s not good to have another UN uproar.

Mr. Johnson: Can we try to stretch the procedure out so that the First Committee doesn’t take up the question until after the election?

Mr. DePalma: Yes. Even the other side is not interested in forcing this issue to come up on the eve of the election. If that were the case, they know we would be forced into taking a stiffer position.

Mr. Kissinger: Okay. Our objective should be to put the debate off until after the election if we lose in the General Committee or in the General Assembly. That will also enable us to be more flexible on the concrete issues, and it will give us more time to consider our positions on those issues.

Mr. Helms: When does the General Assembly convene?

Mr. Kissinger: On the 16th, I think.

Mr. DePalma: No. It convenes on the 19th. Our position looks fairly good, but it is not solid, and we shouldn’t assume that it is solid.

Mr. Kissinger: I understand. You’re saying things look quite good right now. However, we haven’t yet seen the impact of a concerted Chinese and Soviet campaign. And we haven’t obtained the high-level views of most governments. That’s all we can say at the moment.

If the Assembly convenes on the 19th, when will the General Committee be seized with the question?

Mr. DePalma: The 19th is a Tuesday. I think the issue should be brought up at the end of that week—or possibly on the following Monday.

Mr. Kissinger: Then it won’t be stretching things too far to go until November.

Mr. DePalma: No. We have a reasonable chance of doing that.

Mr. Kissinger: While this group is here, we might say a few words about the substantive issues, but we will consider them in more detail later on. We won’t have to take positions on these substantive issues until we know the outcome of the debate.

Mr. Johnson: I agree. And I don’t think we should talk about contingency plans before the debate because it will make the ROKs nervous.

Mr. DePalma: Is that a blanket instruction, or can we talk to the ROKs and two or three others?

[Page 394]

Mr. Johnson: Unless there is an overriding necessity to talk about contingency plans, I think we would be better off not to do so.

Mr. Kissinger: I agree with Alex. Also, if we lose, the Koreans could then say that we meant to lose all along.

Mr. Johnson: That’s right.

Mr. DePalma: But our figures are very queasy.

Mr. Kissinger: Once the ROKs know there will be a debate, there will be no way for them to avoid giving us their positions. In the meantime, we can have preliminary talks within the government here. (to Mr. DePalma) When will the invitation question come up?

Mr. DePalma: That depends on the First Committee’s order of business.

Mr. Kissinger: Could it be within the first four to six weeks?

Mr. DePalma: If the invitation question is the first item on the agenda, it will probably come up within five or six weeks.

Mr. Kissinger: If the General Committee or General Assembly votes against us, we won’t have to decide right away about the invitation question.

Mr. DePalma: The problem is that if the vote goes against us, the other side could call for an urgent meeting of the First Committee. But even if that were done, it would still take a couple of weeks.

Mr. Kissinger: And we would insist on following the normal time schedule.

Mr. DePalma: Yes, although there is always the possibility that the other side may get the bit in its teeth and try to capitalize on the situation.

Mr. Kissinger: I don’t think the Chinese and the Soviets are that eager to humiliate us.

Mr. Johnson: Neither do I. This issue is not all that important, anyway.

Mr. Kissinger: First, we should try to defer the debate. If we lose, though, we should try to put it off until after the election. Let’s talk briefly about the substantive issues. The first one is the invitation question. The State paper gives several options,3 the first of which is the conditional resolution, the one we have always succeeded with in the past.

Mr. Johnson: I don’t think we can get any more mileage out of it.

Mr. Kissinger: Option 2 is a slight alteration of Option 1, eliminating reference to the fact that the DPRK refuses to acknowledge UN [Page 395] competence on the Korean question. The text is at Annex C–3 of the paper. By the way, whoever wrote the paper did a good job. Although this resolution—which was proposed by New Zealand last year—doesn’t mention the condition, it has it. If Option 1 won’t go, Option 2 won’t go.

Option 3 is another modification. The two Koreas would not have to accept UN jurisdiction, but only accept the principles of the UN Charter.

Mr. Johnson: That’s right.

Mr. DePalma: I think Option 3 would probably work. Whenever the North Koreans turned down the resolutions in the past, they always said they accepted the UN Charter principles.

Mr. Kissinger: Everyone will get a crack at these options later on. Right now, though, I’m just trying to get the sentiment of the people around this table. Is anyone violently uncomfortable with this approach?

(No objections were raised)

Mr. Kissinger: Let me leave out the word “violently.” Is anyone uncomfortable with this approach?

(Again, no objections were raised)

Mr. Kissinger: Okay. let’s tentatively think about it. The second substantive issue is UNCURK, and the third is the UN Command and troop withdrawal. (to Mr. Johnson) Alex, where do we stand on UNCURK and what are our choices?

Mr. Johnson: UNCURK really has no value to us or to the ROKs.

Mr. Kissinger: You will be interested to know that the first time I met Chou, he went on and on about UNCURK.

Mr. Helms: It’s not exactly a household word.

Mr. Johnson: Although it is of no real value any more, the ROKs will be sorry to see it go. As a first fallback position, we could insist that the North and South continue to talk, and we would not even mention UNCURK.

Mr. Kissinger: We couldn’t get away with that.

Mr. Johnson: You’re probably right. As a second fallback position, then, we could ask UNCURK to review itself and to report back to the UN next year. That would at least give us another year.

Mr. Kissinger: You mean we should ask the UN to ask UNCURK to review itself?

Mr. Johnson: Yes, and to report back to the Assembly next year. A third fallback position would be to terminate UNCURK. And still another variant position would be to use a study committee to review the importance of UNCURK and to make recommendations to the General Assembly next year. This is only an important issue because the ROKs feel UNCURK strengthens their hand in talking with Pyongyang. We don’t want to appear to be abandoning the ROKs on this.

[Page 396]

Mr. Kissinger: The choices you’ve presented are really modalities for abandoning UNCURK.

Mr. Johnson: That’s right. It would be done slowly, but not over a prolonged period of time. And we would give UNCURK a decent burial.

Mr. Kissinger: I heard that the Chinese were going to propose suspending UNCURK’s activities. Is that true?

Mr. Holdridge: That was a CAS report. It said the Chinese may use the word “suspend” instead of “terminate” in their resolution.

Mr. DePalma: They would be smart to do so. In any case, UNCURK wouldn’t be able to be revived.

Mr. Ranard: Whatever word they use, it would stop all of UNCURK’s activities.

Mr. DePalma: That’s right. The Chinese would be better off using the word “suspend,” but I don’t know if they are that smart. Incidentally, the ghost of UNCURK is fast fading, as it is. The Chileans are out. And even though the Pakistanis are still in, they are feeling the heat from the Chinese. UNCURK may be visibly disintegrating before our eyes.

Mr. Kissinger: Who is in it?

Mr. Ranard: There used to be seven countries, but now there are only six: Australia, Thailand, Turkey, the Philippines, the Netherlands and Pakistan. Chile used to be the seventh country.

Mr. DePalma: If Pakistan withdraws from UNCURK, it will provide further evidence of a crumbling situation.

Mr. Johnson: (to Mr. Ranard) Don, do you want to add anything?

Mr. Ranard: If we are able to defer the UNCURK issue this year, it might give the ROKs the initiative to do something about UNCURK themselves. They know the UNCURK issue is a sticky wicket, and they know this is probably the last time we will be able to defer the issue.

Mr. Kissinger: What will the ROK position be if the UN disbands UNCURK? Will the ROKs be demoralized?

Mr. Ranard: Yes. Since 1947, UNCURK has been the symbol of the legitimacy of their government and the affirmation of the UN role in Korea. If it is abandoned now, the ROKs will be demoralized. In addition, there will probably be some internal political problems, especially between the head of the CIA and the Prime Minister, who are rivals.

Mr. Johnson: But it would not destroy the ROK government.

Mr. Ranard: No, it wouldn’t.

[Page 397]

Mr. Kissinger: You say the ROKs could get rid of UNCURK themselves during the coming year. But wouldn’t that have the same impact as the UN suspending UNCURK’s activities?

Mr. Johnson: No, because the ROKs would be taking the action, not the UN. Don’t forget, either, that UNCOK—UNCURK’s predecessor—was an important factor in getting UN support for our actions in Korea in 1950. Their witness about the attack from the North—aside from the Soviet absence—enabled the UN to support our actions. The ROKs remember that, and they feel UNCURK gives them some security.

Mr. Solomon: One report we’ve seen says the North wants a voice in the UN in order to have some protection from a “great power” deal on the Peninsula.

Mr. Ranard: That report, I think, is just a sophisticated argument to get the issue to the UN.

Mr. Kissinger: Can we lose on the UNCURK issue?

Mr. DePalma: If we lose on deferring the debate, we can also lose on UNCURK.

Mr. Kissinger: What about the UN Command issue?

Mr. Johnson: That comes under the Security Council, not the General Assembly.

Mr. Kissinger: In other words, we have a veto on that issue.

Mr. Johnson: Yes. If the General Assembly passes a resolution about the UN Command, the resolution will have no legal effect. We could ignore if it we want to.

Mr. Kissinger: How could the Security Council take action on the UN Command?

Mr. Johnson: It would have to pass a resolution.

Mr. Kissinger: Which we could veto.

Mr. Johnson: Yes.

Mr. Ranard: There are less than two hundred foreign troops in the UN Command, aside from our own forces. Would we use the veto when it might have an effect on foreign troop participation in the Command?

Mr. Kissinger: The UN Command is significant because it legitimizes our operations. We don’t need the two hundred foreign troops in the Command.

Mr. Doolin: It also helps preserve the U.S. Status of Forces Agreement.

Mr. DePalma: Can we get the Thai to stick with us? They have one plane in Korea.

Mr. Kissinger: Do we really care about the Thai in Korea?

[Page 398]

Mr. Johnson: When I first went out to Thailand, one of my main jobs was to try to persuade the Thai to keep their plane in Korea. Here it is 1972, and we’re still talking about the same plane.

Mr. Kissinger: Is it our desire to keep foreign troops in Korea? I suppose the answer is “yes” as long as there is a UN Command. However, if we lose the Thai plane and the other foreign forces, do we want to make some changes in the command? As long as the UN Command can’t be disbanded by the General Assembly, our position is not bad. Whatever changes the other side wants to make we will control. Is that correct?

Mr. Johnson: Yes.

Mr. Kissinger: What is the relationship of the U.S. Status of Forces Agreement in Japan with the UN Command in Korea? What changes would we have to make in the Status of Forces Agreement in Japan if we give up the UN Command?

Mr. Johnson: The Status of Forces Agreement with Japan permits the stationing of non-American troops in Japan for the defense of Korea. This has nothing to do with the U.S. forces stationed in Japan, which would not be affected by a disbanding of the UN Command. On the other hand, the relationship of our forces in Korea with the Koreans would be affected by a change in the command.

Mr. Kissinger: If the UN Command were disbanded, it would have no effect on our forces in Japan?

Mr. Johnson: That’s right. Our forces in Japan are covered by the Security Agreement with the Japanese.

Mr. Doolin: But the Security Agreement with the Japanese also allows us to use our forces there in the defense of Korea.

Mr. Kissinger: If we took a softer position on UNCURK in the General Assembly, we would not prejudice the survival of the UN Command.

Mr. Johnson: No, we wouldn’t.

Mr. Kissinger: Could we get an analysis by the end of September of these issues, when we will look at them again in more detail?

Mr. DePalma: Yes.

Mr. Kissinger: What about the possibility of the PRC trying to get the General Assembly to repeal the aggressor resolutions of 1951? Could that be done?

Mr. DePalma: I doubt they could get up a head of steam for that. Everyone would be in a bind. They have alluded to it, to be sure, but they’ve never brought it up.

Mr. Ranard: When the Chinese first came to the UN, they said they had three objectives with regard to Korea: 1) to support Kim Il Sung and his eight-point reunification plan; 2) to abolish UNCURK; and [Page 399] 3) to repeal the aggressor resolutions. They have worked on the first two, but they have never done anything about the third.4

Mr. Doolin: Don’t forget that Ch’en Yi also said in 1965 that a condition for membership in the UN was getting rid of the aggressor resolutions.

Mr. Johnson: You’re right. I had forgotten about that.

Mr. Kissinger: That’s all I have.

Mr. Cohen: My papers make reference to NSSM 154,5 but I don’t have it. Has NSSM 154 been prepared?

Mr. Kissinger: The State paper we’ve been talking about today is part of NSSM 154.

Mr. Ranard: Yes, that’s right.

Mr. Cohen: For Treasury and the balance of payments problem, our substantive commitments to Korea are more important than the options on UN debates. It would be helpful for us to have the whole NSSM study.

Mr. Kissinger: You will get it.

Mr. Kennedy: The complete study should be ready very soon.

Mr. Cohen: Good. It would be helpful if we could see it.

Mr. Kissinger: You are part of the SRG, and you will get a copy of the study as soon as it is ready.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–113, SRG Minutes, Originals, 1972–1973. Secret. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room.
  2. Reference is to the options summarized in Document 152.
  3. See Document 152 and footnote 2 thereto.
  4. The PRC continued to support Korean unification at the 27th session of the UN General Assembly. On September 19 in New York, PRC Ambassador to the UN Huang handed Kissinger a draft resolution on the “creation of favourable conditions to accelerate the independent and peaceful reunification of Korea.” See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XVII, China, 1969–1972, Document 253 and ibid., volume E–13, Documents on China, 1969–1972, Document 158. Despite PRC support, the General Assembly passed a resolution postponing consideration of Korean unification.
  5. Document 133.