21. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Deputy Prime Minister Choong Hoon Park of Korea
  • Ambassador Dong Jo Kim of Korea
  • Yang Yoon Sae, Director, Office of Investment Promotion, Economic Planning Board, Seoul, Korea
  • The President
  • Emil Mosbacher Jr., Chief of Protocol
  • Winthrop G. Brown, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
  • Richard L. Sneider, NSC Senior Staff Member

Deputy Prime Minister Park expressed condolences of the Korean Government for the loss of American lives in the EC–121 incident. He gave the President a letter from President Park on the incident2 and a letter of introduction from President Park.

EC–121 Incident

President Nixon said that he wished to make clear to the North Koreans that they cannot drive us out of the seas, the waters or air space outside the North Korean territorial waters by illegal actions. We need reconnaissance and our aircraft will be protected. We have asserted our determination not to be driven out and what happens in the future is up to the North Koreans.

Park said that the U.S. had done the right thing at this time but there is concern in Korea about future U.S. actions. If the U.S. tolerates continued aggressive action by North Korea morale in South Korea will be reduced.

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President Nixon said we shall have these factors in mind in our decisions on subsequent steps. It is his policy never to threaten but the North Koreans are on notice.

Park suggested three steps to deter the North Koreans. First, we should let the North Koreans know if they repeat the EC–121 shoot-down it will suffer retaliatory action. President Nixon asked Park’s views on Kim Il Sung’s intentions. He said some believe that Kim actually wants a fight at this time. Park said that Kim has built up his forces to war-time level and North Korea is a military camp. South Korea on the other hand is geared to economic development, improvement of its national power and unification by peaceful means. It does not have enough forces to resist the North. The North Koreans may miscalculate therefore and start a conflict in the belief that the U.S. would not fight in Korea due to its involvement in Vietnam.

Park went on to describe the two other necessary deterrence steps. The second action should be to build up U.S. air power in South Korea since there is still too great a disparity in favor of the North Koreans. South Korea hoped that the U.S. would keep at least a task force in the area. Finally, Park said that most important would be to strengthen the ROK forces, particularly its air force. The principal North Korean military margin is in air power; South Korea has good pilots and if it had the equipment, it would have a first-rate air force. The ROK is now preparing a plan to discuss with General Bonesteel for gradual buildup of the South Korean forces. President Nixon suggested that Park discuss this with Secretary of Defense Laird.

Park assured President Nixon that Korea wishes to maintain its traditional friendship with the United States. He described President Park as courageous and restrained. President Nixon said that he appreciated Korean restraint and knew it was difficult for the Koreans. Korea could be assured that the U.S. and Korea would always stand together.


Park then raised several other issues with President Nixon. First, with respect to Okinawa, Korea had no wish to be involved in this question but is concerned since Okinawa protects Korea as well as other countries. Korea therefore wants to be consulted on its disposition. President Nixon said no decision had been made but we will talk to the Koreans.


Park said that U.S. assistance to Korea is now showing fruits and after 1971 they will not need grant aid. Korea is following a policy of growth, stability and solvency. Korea will need increased trade, however. Its exports have increased from $30 million to $500 million last [Page 49] year. The most important market for Korea is the United States and its major export is textiles. It is therefore concerned about efforts to control textile imports into the United States. President Nixon said we would certainly have the Korean problems in mind but the textile question is a difficult problem for the United States. Secretary Stans will be talking to the Korean Government on trade problems shortly when he visits East Asia.3

Private Investment

Park said that Korea welcomed American private investment. They hope a second mission following George Ball’s mission4 will come to Korea to discuss increased investment. He asked the President to encourage this.

Vietnam Economic Cooperation

Park thought there was more room for Korean economic cooperation in Vietnam. Korea could assume logistic functions now undertaken by the U.S. and military forces. This would permit us to withdraw some forces from Korea. The President said we would review this question.

Visits to Korea

Park said he hoped that the other American cabinet members accompanying Secretary Rogers to Japan would also visit Korea after the July cabinet meeting. The President said that he has told the cabinet members whenever they go to Japan, they should also visit Korea. Park said that the Koreans hope that President Nixon will visit Korea as soon as possible. The President said that sometime during his present term he hopes to visit Korea but he did not think a trip this year would be possible.

In concluding the meeting Park and the President agreed on what they would say to the press.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, President’s Office Files, Box 78, Memoranda for the President, Beginning April 27, 1969. Secret. The meeting was held at the White House. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the meeting was held from 11:29 a.m. to 12:26 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files) This memorandum is attached to a May 10 memorandum from Jeanne W. Davis to Lawrence Eagleburger indicating that Kissinger approved the memorandum of conversation with the stipulation that it could be distributed within the Department only on a Nodis basis. Deputy Prime Minister Park Choong Hoon also met with Rogers on April 28. (Memorandum of conversation, April 28; ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 540, Far East, Korea, Vol. I, to 9–69)
  2. In the letter, Park expressed the outrage of the Korean Government and people at the latest North Korean provocations and offered his views as to ways and means to counter them in the future, namely by the strengthening of South Korean and U.S. military forces in Korea. Telegram 2150 from Seoul, April 29, transmitted the text of President Park’s letter to Nixon. (Ibid., Box 757, Presidential Correspondence 1969–1974, Korea, President Park Corr., 1969)
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume IV, Foreign Assistance, International Development, Trade Policies, 1969–1972, Document 203.
  4. In a memorandum of conversation, March 14, 1967, President Johnson told the Korean Prime Minister that he was sending George Ball, an executive at the Lehman Brothers investment firm, on a mission on March 16 to promote American private investment in South Korea. Ball had served as Under Secretary of State until 1966. See Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XXIX, part 1, Korea, Document 110.