51. Minutes of a National Security Council Review Group Meeting1


  • Korea (NSSM 27)


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
  • William I. Cargo
  • Winthrop Brown
  • Donald McHenry
  • Defense
  • Richard A. Ware
  • CIA
  • Edward Proctor
  • JCS
  • LTG F. T. Unger
  • OEP
  • Haakon Lindjord
  • USIA
  • Frank Shakespeare
  • BOB
  • James R. Schlesinger
  • NSC Staff
  • John Holdridge
  • John Court
  • Jeanne W. Davis

Summary of Decisions

The JCS will readdress the question of the number of ROK divisions that would be required to defend against a North Korean attack and against a combined NK/Communist Chinese attack, taking into account possible increased MAP or increased modernization, and provide an analysis of force figures by February 13.2
Eliminate Posture 4; add to Posture 2 the concept of the minimum US force that would be required with a modernized ROK force—i.e., the proper mix of US and ROK forces to achieve the objective, assuming minimum US forces.
Review the MAP figures and reconsider the cost figures to reflect some flexibility: e.g., totals for the period 1971–75 as opposed to 1970–74; withdrawal by June 1971 rather than June 1972.
Hold another RG meeting on February 193 and an NSC meeting on February 25.4

(State and JCS representatives circulated proposed amendments to the Issues Paper at the table.)

Mr. Kissinger asked Amb. Brown why they had wished to advance consideration of the Korean item.

Amb. Brown replied there were two reasons: (1) State’s desire to allow maximum time between any decisions which may be made about US force posture in Korea and the Korean elections in 1971, so as to give Park maximum freedom of maneuver; and (2) to ensure that any decisions on US forces in Korea receive thorough consideration and are not taken hastily in view of the severe budgetary pressures on the Defense Department.

Mr. Kissinger asked if all agreed with the statement of the issues, including the comments circulated by State at the table.

Mr. Cargo referred to State comment No. 3 and recommended that Postures 4 and 5 be eliminated from discussion in order to simplify the paper.

Mr. Kissinger asked how these postures came to be included and if anyone was opposed to their elimination.

General Unger noted that the postures were stated in terms of what would be required to resist a North Korean attack or a combined North Korean/Chinese Communist attack, with current equipment or with modernized equipment. The JCS took the position that, assuming continued presence of two US divisions, 19 ROK divisions would be required to resist a combined attack. He agreed that future developments, including increased MAP, could permit a reduction of these figures, but thought that at the present time any reduction below the 19 division [Page 126] level would risk defeat. Therefore, the JCS reserved its position on the last paragraph of page 2 of the Issues Paper and suggested a restatement of page 3, paragraph 3, along the lines of the amendment distributed at the table. He expressed grave concern at the sources of the figures used in the paper and said he had asked the Chiefs to readdress the question of the number of ROK divisions that would be required, taking into account possible increased MAP or increased modernization.

Mr. Court pointed out that the Defense Department had cleared the statements in the Issues Paper.

General Unger agreed that there had been a great deal of work on these issues but said the JCS had not really analyzed the meaning and the effect of “modernized” equipment versus present equipment. He cited the statement that 16 to 18 divisions with modernized equipment would equal 23 divisions with current equipment. He cited the statement that during the Korean War 17 US and ROK divisions had defeated one million North Korean/Communist Chinese, but pointed out that half of these 17 were US divisions, and that we had complete air supremacy. He said the whole situation was being readdressed by the Chiefs, noting, for example, that the cost figures on the list of equipment needed for modernization for 18 divisions totalled $800 million.

Mr. Kissinger said the President hates to be hit cold on issues of this kind and he would be reluctant to go into an NSC meeting at which General Wheeler would raise these issues before the President for the first time. He asked Ambassador Brown if he would object if the NSC meeting were postponed to February 25.

Ambassador Brown agreed, but pointed out that he had asked these questions concerning force structures a year ago and thought he had the answers.

General Unger agreed that there had been military participation throughout the drafting of the study, but he had found that many of the statements in the paper were based on figures the source of which he had been unable to determine.

Ambassador Brown agreed it was more important to discuss the issue thoroughly even if it meant a slight delay.

Mr. Kissinger said we should look at the military assumptions again.

Mr. Cargo agreed that this was essential, saying he had assumed that we had Defense agreement on these assumptions.

Mr. Kissinger said he was surprised at the statement that 21 ROK divisions could defend against a North Korean attack and 23 ROK divisions could defend against a combined North Korean/Communist Chinese attack.

He thought it was necessary to get these various assumptions straightened out.

[Page 127]

General Unger asked if it had been agreed to drop Postures 4 and 5.

Mr. Kissinger asked if there were a consensus on considering the first three postures.

Mr. Ware suggested that the issue be considered in terms of what would be the minimum US force required combined with an effective ROK force.

General Unger added that the political effect of the various postures should also be considered.

Mr. Cargo thought that Postures 1, 2 and 3 embraced the political/military realm.

Mr. Kissinger asked if the Koreans would be willing to go down to 14 divisions. It was agreed that they would not.

Mr. Kissinger agreed with Mr. Ware’s suggestion that the issue should be considered in terms of what the ROK needed to enable us to get by with a minimum US force there. He thought it should also take into account the corollary MAP programs.

General Unger pointed out that the MAP was based on 1968 figures.

Mr. Kissinger asked that these MAP figures be reviewed. He asked if there was possibly another option: minimum US forces plus adequate ROK force.

Mr. Schlesinger asked if the MAP figures included the possibility of drawing on excess stocks.

Mr. Ware said this was very difficult to do because they do not know more than one quarter ahead what the services will release as excess.

Mr. Schlesinger noted that Congress has authorized only $350 million for MAP next year. He thought going back to Senator Fulbright’s Committee for supplemental MAP funds would be extremely tough since the feeling on military assistance is running very high.

Mr. Ware commented that this was a basic issue—the relationship of MAP to troop withdrawals and defense expenditures. He thought these must be discussed in relation to the FY 1971 supplemental request.

Mr. Kissinger noted that, at the time of the question of the jet aircraft for Nationalist China, the President had indicated he was more interested in the Korean supplemental than in the jets. He thought Senator Fulbright might be more amenable to MAP if it were related to a reduced US military presence abroad.

Mr. Cargo thought that in the costing out of the various postures we would need to relate the DOD figures and the MAP figures.

Mr. Kissinger commented that he thought the study was a very good one but that we must get agreement on the figures.

[Page 128]

Mr. Cargo thought that in considering the minimum US force that would be required we must be careful of the political aspect. He thought reduction of the US presence below one division would create political problems we could not support.

Mr. Ware thought these should be considered in relationship to the political/fiscal problems at home, noting that supporting a division overseas was “expensive as hell.”

General Unger asked again which postures were being eliminated.

Mr. Kissinger said Posture 4 can go since it calls for the withdrawal of both US divisions.

General Unger commented that Posture 2 also calls for the withdrawal of both US divisions but includes more modernized ROK divisions.

Mr. Shakespeare thought both 2 and 4 should be eliminated.

Mr. Kissinger asked if it were true that a ROK force of 12 to 14 divisions could repel 25 North Korean divisions.

Mr. Court replied that this was based on total manpower involved since the divisions were not organized in the same manner.

Mr. Kissinger said he had nothing against Posture 5 if it should be found that 14 ROK divisions plus one US division is the right combination in the view of the JCS. He thought Posture 4, which pulls out both US divisions, would present us with enormous political problems.

General Unger replied that Posture 2 also pulls out both divisions.

Mr. Kissinger asked if we should then eliminate both 2 and 4 and reserve a position on 5 depending on the JCS judgment as to what ROK forces would be required with minimum US forces. Or should we eliminate 4 and redefine 2 in terms of minimum US force required.

Mr. Cargo suggested that we leave 1, 3 and 5 as they are; that we drop 4; and that we add to 2 the concept of minimum US force.

Mr. Kissinger agreed we should drop 4.

General Unger noted that Posture 2 equals 18 ROK divisions and no US divisions. He thought that if these 18 divisions were brought up to US standards through modernization, it might be reasonable to leave in Posture 2.

Mr. Shakespeare asked if the President would seriously consider pulling out all US divisions from Korea.

Mr. Kissinger replied that the President would seriously consider Posture 2 if it should be concluded that this represented the proper mix of ROK forces with US forces, along the lines of Mr. Ware’s formulation.

Mr. Shakespeare noted the symbolism of the US military presence in Korea.

Mr. Kissinger agreed that it was inconceivable that the President would decide to withdraw all US forces from Korea. He noted that under [Page 129] Option 2 a 15,000-man US force would remain which could include a brigade.

General Unger agreed there would be a residual force.

Mr. Kissinger suggested that we look at 2 from Mr. Ware’s point of view. Could this residual US force equate to the minimum US force required? Are 18 ROK divisions the right number of divisions?

Mr. Proctor referred to the “substantial safety factor” (page 4, Issues Paper) and asked what was considered a substantial safety factor.

Mr. Schlesinger noted that Table 1 had been figured on five-year totals for 1970–74. If we shifted these to 1971–75 we would get different cost impacts. The cost would also be different if it were based on withdrawal by June 1971 rather than withdrawal by June 1972. He thought the costing did not reflect the full flexibility available to us.

Mr. Kissinger agreed that this was a good point.

Mr. Ware noted that Defense was already on the ‘72 budget cycle.

Mr. Schlesinger answered that they would not have to change their ‘71 budget in order to withdraw troops from Korea.

Mr. Shakespeare noted, with regard to [2 lines not declassified]. He asked if there was a reasonable order of probability that this would happen.

General Unger replied that this was covered in the basic study. He said there [3½ lines not declassified].

Mr. Kissinger asked if it were not easier [1 line not declassified].

General Unger agreed.

Mr. Cargo thought this related also to the question of troop deployment.

Mr. Shakespeare asked if we could then say there was [1 line not declassified].

General Unger thought we could.

Mr. Kissinger commented that in Europe he thought [3 lines not declassified].

Mr. Shakespeare commented he did not think this would be true in Korea.

Mr. Kissinger thought Kim Il-Sung alternated between intransigence and restraint and that he had been more restrained since the EC–121 incident. He considered him tough but not insane.

Ambassador Brown agreed that Kim was practical and tough but he also thought he was insulated from reality.

Mr. Kissinger asked if we could run down the list of issues to see if they were fairly stated.

He asked if all were satisfied with the discussion of our purpose: do we try to contain a North Korean attack only or a joint Chinese-North [Page 130] Korean attack? He asked if the JCS would analyze the force levels in terms of both possibilities.

General Unger said they would do so, but because of the element of risk in preparing to defend against a North Korean attack only, the JCS thought we should plan force levels to resist a combined attack. He thought it a more realistic approach, noting that they could plan forces which would hold back a combined attack long enough to bring in reinforcements.

Mr. Kissinger identified the next issue as the need for a modernization program and for what purpose. The third issue, the timing of withdrawal, to be based in part on budgetary and in part on political considerations. He asked Ambassador Brown if we could assume that we would either want this withdrawal as early as possible or would want to wait until after the ‘71 Korean elections.

Ambassador Brown thought we should make no assumptions on timing until we had consulted with Park and had his reaction.

General Unger thought in the matter of timing we should also consider when the ROK forces would be returning from Vietnam.

Ambassador Brown reiterated that we should take no final decision until we hear from Park.

Mr. Kissinger agreed, but thought we needed a statement of all the considerations bearing on the time of the withdrawal.

Mr. Cargo noted page 11 of the Issues Paper contained some of these considerations as well as some alternatives. Paragraph 8 of the State Department memorandum circulated at the table was an effort to put these considerations in a broader context.

Ambassador Brown thought we would be able to make a better judgment of timing when we had the information from the JCS on the force figures.

Mr. Shakespeare asked how important the ROK divisions in Vietnam are—military or psychologically.

General Unger replied it was important to keep these forces in Vietnam. The timing of their removal was of course related to Vietnamization.

Mr. Shakespeare asked about their usefulness in Vietnam as opposed to the usefulness of their return to Korea.

General Unger replied that the ROK forces would be needed in Vietnam as long as we needed combat forces there.

Mr. Kissinger thought it was not entirely up to the US as to when the Korean forces were brought back from Vietnam. It would be very difficult if we should press the Koreans to bring their forces back from Vietnam, then we should pull our forces out of Korea. He thought the possibility of trading their divisions in Vietnam for our forces in Korea [Page 131] was the least possible incentive for Korea to leave Vietnam. He also thought this might give an unfortunate impression of general Asian disengagement. He suggested that we look at the negotiating scenario again with this in mind. He asked if the issues on the placement of US forces were fairly stated.

All agreed they were.

Mr. Ware noted that State, in its memorandum of amendment, proposed eliminating all alternatives but No. 3 [less than 1 line not declassified].

Mr. Cargo explained that they did not wish to see the alternatives eliminated but were talking only about the system of numbering the alternatives in the Issues Paper compared with that used in the basic study memo which might be confusing.

General Unger thought in order to give a better balance, we might insert in the penultimate paragraph on page 14 of the Issues Paper the thought that we might want to have [1½ lines not declassified].

Mr. Schlesinger thought we should also take into account the various means of financing modernization. He noted that if we should withdraw a division from Korea, there would be approximately $550 million in stocks available to the ROKs; if Korea withdraws from Vietnam they would bring their equipment back with them; we could also look to excess US equipment in Vietnam as Vietnamization progresses. He thought we should consider all of these funding sources in view of the severe constraints on grant MAP.

Mr. Lindjord referred to the increased flexibility if we should bring some 2 US divisions back from Korea and said this would be true only if we kept the divisions in being and did not disband them.

Ambassador Brown replied that the only point in their withdrawal would be if they were to be disbanded.

Mr. Schlesinger thought they might be retained “in low profile.”

Mr. Lindjord asked if the Japanese would not be concerned if we took US troops out of Korea.

General Unger thought they would.

Mr. Kissinger said we would want to have the JCS analysis of the force figures by February 13. We would plan to have another Review Group meeting on February 19 and an NSC meeting on February 25.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H-111, Senior Review Group, SRG Minutes Originals 1970. Secret. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room. On February 3, Lynn sent Kissinger a memorandum in which he provided a progress report on the NSSM 27 study. (Ibid.) For the preliminary response to NSSM 27, see Document 27.
  2. See Document 52.
  3. A Review Group meeting was held on February 16 but dealt with France. A special NSC meeting on February 25 dealt exclusively with Israel. According to a February 23 memorandum from Cargo to Colonel Davenport, a “pre-Review Group meeting” was held on February 19 to discuss changes to the NSSM 27 study. Cargo included a paragraph to be inserted “to flag the political problems associated with an adjustment of US posture in Korea.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–111, Senior Review Group, SRG Minutes Originals 1970) The minutes of the February 19 meeting have not been found.
  4. The NSC meeting was postponed until March 4; see Document 55.