57. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Korea 1

60605. For Ambassador from Alexis Johnson. Subject: U.S. Troop Reductions.

Ambassador Kim came in to see me alone this afternoon to deliver the signed copy and translation of Park’s letter to the President. He also had a long private letter from Park—apparently in Park’s handwriting.2 Kim was in real anguish and following are the principal points in our hour and a half conversation:
Although on the basis of his previous conversation with me, Laird, etc., Kim had been reporting the likelihood of an approach on [Page 151] our part with respect to troop reductions, Park had chosen to ignore these reports and, based on his conversations during the visit here, had been confident that there would be no such approach at this time. Thus your approach to him came as a “profound shock.”
Contrary to the situation with respect to Viet-Nam and NATO, neither Park nor Kim had discerned any pressure from the Congress for reduction of U.S. Forces in Korea. Only Senator Tydings had spoken out on the subject3 and Senator Cooper had told Kim that Tydings was by no means representative of Congressional views.
While accepting the principle and logic of the Nixon Doctrine as it applies to Korea, the whole matter was a question of timing. While accepting logic of our position on ability of present ROK Forces, together with remaining American Forces and American Air and Naval reinforcements, to deal with a North Korean attack this logic would not be understood or accepted by Korean people and an announcement of a reduction of forces prior to carrying out a modernization of ROK Forces would have profound political effects in Korea.
In general, a repetition of most of the points Park made to you as reported in your 2039.4
In response I pointed out political impossibility of obtaining additional MAP funds for modernization ROK forces without some reduction in US forces; the fact that this should in no way be interpreted as a withdrawal from or abandonment of ROK but was simply a realignment of some forces to make them more readily available; that remaining US forces and our ability for quick reinforcement would continue to constitute effective deterrent; that we could not defend having ROK as only exemption to application of Nixon Doctrine in Asia; that feared psychological effects on ROK could be reduced or eliminated by presenting this as jointly agreed action based on mutual confidence, ROK successes, etc., etc. Without ever explicitly saying so, I tried and believe I was successful in leaving Kim with impression we [Page 152] would probably go ahead in spite of Park’s opposition and it would be best for them to get on board. However, Kim was not to be shaken and I promised that his views would be brought to the attention of the President.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 541, Country Files, Far East, Korea, Vol. II, 10/69–5/70. Top Secret; Nodis. Drafted and approved by Johnson on April 22 and cleared in S/S.
  2. Ibid., Box 757, Presidential Correspondence 1969–1974, Korea, Park, 1970. The personal letter has not been found.
  3. U.S. officials were concerned by the South Korean response to a Senate speech on April 9 by Tydings during which the Senator recommended the withdrawal of one U.S. division from Korea. In a memorandum to Kissinger, April 18, Holdridge stated that Ambassador Porter had reported that “Korean leaders were taken aback by Senator Tydings” and that this “may affect the Koreans’ hitherto relatively favorable response to our suggestion that they take the initiative in calling for a reduction in U.S. personnel.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 541, Country Files, Far East, Korea, Vol. II, 10/69–5/70)
  4. Dated April 22. (Ibid.)