3. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Call of Ambassador Kim Dong Jo on Secretary of State
- His Excellency Kim Dong Jo, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea
- The Secretary of State
- Honorable Chyun Sangjin, Minister of the Korean Embassy
- Mr. Choi Kwang Soo, Counselor of the Korean Embassy
- James F. Leonard, Country Director for Korea
After some polite preliminaries Ambassador Kim pointed out that, although Korea is carrying the main burden of its own defense, it remains heavily dependent on the United States for the supply of weapons and other equipment. They are grateful for the support provided through MAP but they very much hope that when, as was the case this year, the world-wide MAP appropriation is cut, the Korean portion will not be reduced proportionately.
Ambassador Kim asked whether it was intended to hold a meeting of the troop-contributing countries in Bangkok after the SEATO [Page 5] meeting. The Secretary said he believed it was, but that scheduling was a bit of a problem and it was not as yet a firm decision.
Ambassador Kim noted that his President had had the highest regard for President Johnson and had attached great importance to keeping in close contact with him through letters and through meetings at Honolulu and elsewhere. President Park would very much hope to continue this custom and maintain the closest of relations with President Nixon and the senior members of the new Administration.
The Secretary responded that he certainly concurred in the desirability of such contacts without being able at this time to offer any views on just how this should be done. He said that President Nixon was simply not at the moment addressing himself to the question of where and when he would travel next, having just returned from Europe. The President very definitely did not want his trip to Europe to appear to indicate any lack of interest on the part of this Administration in other areas.
Ambassador Kim said he appreciated these assurances, since the comments which had come out of the White House in connection with the European trip had spoken of such things as Summit Meetings with the Soviet leaders, and of the importance of the Middle East and Latin America, but had not mentioned the importance of the Far East. The Secretary acknowledged that it was difficult to keep a completely satisfactory balance, since whenever one mentioned one area it created questions as to why some other area was not mentioned, but the Administration was by no means unconcerned about Asia. Ambassador Kim said that, speaking personally rather than as a diplomat, he very much hoped that the new Administration would exert itself to overcome the impression which had been created regarding its supposed focus on Europe. The Asians needed the sort of psychological lift which can be given them by reaffirmation of American interest.
Ambassador Kim noted that high-level visits are one way of expressing this interest. He had called on Deputy Secretary of Defense Packard and invited him to the Defense Ministries’meeting, which was planned for May in Seoul. He had also called on Secretary of Commerce Stans and reached temporary agreement on a Commerce Ministers’ meeting in Seoul in September. He said that he would urge the United States to consider undertaking with Korea the sort of regular ministerial meetings which we now had with Japan under the leadership of the Secretary of State. His Government would very much welcome a visit to Korea by the Secretary.
Secretary Rogers responded that he would very much like to accept such an invitation. He said he hoped he might be able to go to Korea during the trip which is planned in connection with the Japanese ministerial talks in June. (Note: These talks are now scheduled for July.) The Secretary promised to look at his schedule in this connection.[Page 6]
Ambassador Kim drew attention to the very major problem which protectionist tendencies in the United States would create for Korea. He said that this was nothing less than a matter of life and death for his people. He pointed out that one-third of Korean sales in the United States are now textiles of man-made fibers and that any sort of restrictions on this portion of the market would be a serious threat to the export target of $400 million set by his Government for 1969. The Korean Government has to carry a very heavy military burden and it must have economic prosperity and development if it is to do its share in the military field.
The Ambassador said that he would like to ask the Secretary for his evaluation of the prospects at the Paris peace talks. Were they bright? The Secretary responded that the objectives for which we are working in Viet-Nam and in Paris are quite clear: the freedom for the South Vietnamese to determine their own future. We do not yet know if the North Vietnamese are sincerely interested in peace on these terms, and he could not at this point characterize the situation in Paris as bright or as anything else. As the Ambassador was undoubtedly aware from the newspapers, we are suggesting mutual troop withdrawals as an area in which progress might be made, but as of this moment he could not see clearly at all whether there would be progress. He said that if the prospects look good we would then of course be consulting promptly with our Korean and other allies.
Ambassador Kim asked if it might be possible that the Administration would soon be making a clear statement of its objectives in Asia. Secretary Rogers responded that our objectives in Asia are in large part determined by our treaty obligations there. The Ambassador asked if we did not think it would be desirable to put something on the record about support for those nations which are “bastions of freedom” in the Far East, etc. The Secretary said he did not think it was timely to do so, that the mood of the American public would not be receptive to what might be called hard-line or belligerent statements. There was, he added, no question of our “throwing in the towel” in Asia. We would persist in fulfilling our commitments there, but we do very much seek an honorable end to the fighting.
The Ambassador referred to President Nixon’s views on regional cooperation in Asia and asked whether the Secretary felt that what the President had in mind there was primarily economic and cultural cooperation [Page 7] or whether Mr. Nixon had been thinking of regional security arrangements. The Secretary answered that he thought it was the former. The United States could not really at this point consider any further security commitments. He did not have to draw the Ambassador’s attention to the climate of opinion on this subject in Congress and in the press. As for arrangements among the nations of the area, that was of course another matter. He did not, however, think that we believed the timing would be appropriate now for new security pacts among the free Asian nations.
The Ambassador said there had been discussion among his colleagues about possibly extending an invitation to the United States to join ASPAC. He wondered what the Secretary’s reaction might to be such a thought. The Secretary said that he did not think it would be wise to consider this possibility. He felt that the congressional reaction to further engagements, even of this sort, would be negative.
The Ambassador thanked the Secretary very much for being so generous with his time and said that, on his imminent return to Korea, he would certainly be arranging for a formal invitation to the Secretary to visit Seoul. He asked if there was anything in particular the Secretary wished conveyed to President Park personally. The Secretary said that he would be grateful if the Ambassador would convey Mr. Nixon’s personal regards and underline the high esteem in which Mr. Nixon holds President Park. He said he would also be grateful if the Ambassador would express to the President and to others the deep appreciation of this Administration and, in fact of all the American people, for the very important contribution which the Koreans are making in Viet-Nam. This was a matter on which he knew Americans felt very strongly. The Ambassador promised to do so and said his farewells.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 540, Country Files, Far East, Korea, Vol. I, to 9–69. Confidential. Drafted by Leonard and approved in S on March 21. The meeting was held at the Department of State. A copy was sent to Richard Sneider at the White House.↩