61. Telegram From the Embassy in Korea to the Department of State1

3115. For Ambassador Brown. Prime Minister called me in today and handed me signed original English translation of letter from President Park to President Nixon dated June 15.2 Letter reviews history of Korea since 1950, enemy intentions, and repeats much of Park’s comment already transmitted. Letter then continues:

“However, inasmuch as you are proposing to me a partial reduction of the United States forces in Korea in line with your policy of generally reducing United States troops stationed abroad, I think it is in the interests of both of our governments to express clearly and frankly my views and positions and problems related to such reduction.

“The United States forces in Korea serve as a most effective deterrent against the potential aggressors and also as an indispensable element of the defense posture in the case of an armed attack from the north. Any reduction should, therefore, be accompanied by positive measures of strengthening the Republic of Korea forces to offset the effect of such reduction lest it should result in weakening the deterrent or defense capability. It is to be added that major part, if not all, of such measures should be implemented in advance.

“As for the modernization of the Republic of Korea forces as an effective means of strengthening them, it is to be reminded that the ‘Counter Infiltrations/Guerrilla Forces Improvement Requirements’ and the ‘Republic of Korea Forces Development Objectives Plan’ were submitted to your government on January 9 and June 7, 1969, respectively.3 I have instructed my Minister of National Defense to integrate these two plans into a single five-year (1971–1975) overall modernization plan, which, I understand, is being submitted to your government through the Commander, United States Forces in Korea, as of this date.

“I think that consultations should be made on the requirements as well as the ways and means of implementing this overall and substantial modernization. Consultations should also be made on the problem of regular military assistance and on the question of whether it would be necessary to increase the level of the Republic of Korea forces. [Page 160] Furthermore, the ways and means of developing defense industries in Korea should also be explored. It is strongly hoped that firm assurances in advance will be made by your government with regard to these problems.

“As regards the United States forces in Korea, assuming any partial reduction should take place, problems concerning its size and timing as well as the maintenance of the present structure of the United States forces in Korea should be the subjects of consultation. At the same time, consideration should be given to the necessity of strengthening the disposition of naval and air forces of the United States in and around Korea.

“In case of reduction of the United States forces in Korea, there should also be measures of effective diplomatic assurance aimed at forestalling or eliminating its political and psychological adverse effects on the people of the Republic of Korea. Such measures would help to relieve the apprehensions of the Korean people as to their future security and, more importantly, to prevent the danger of irrevocable calamities which might be caused by miscalculation on the part of the potential aggressors, the North Korean and Chinese Communists, as to the the capability or determination of our two nations to take common measures to meet their aggression.

“The importance of fulfilling the treaty obligation of your government in the defense of the Republic of Korea is also pointed out in your letter. There should be a reaffirmation of the determination of the United States to take effective and prompt measures, including the dispatch and reinforcement of ground troops, in the case of renewed aggression in the Korean Peninsula. The potential aggressors should be given a clear and stern warning about such determination of the United States.

“The United States has consistently supported the objective of the United Nations in Korea to realize ‘a unified, independent and democratic Korea.’ And, it goes without saying that the mainstay of the United Nations forces, which constitute an indispensable factor for the maintenance of peace in the Korean Peninsula, consists of the United States forces in Korea. Accordingly, it should be reaffirmed that the partial reduction of the United States forces in Korea would in no way affect the role of the United Nations forces in Korea and that until such time as the above-mentioned objective of the United Nations in Korea is accomplished, the United States forces, which form the nucleus of the United Nations forces in Korea, will certainly continue to be stationed in Korea at a level of powerful and substantial strength.

“I consider it of utmost importance for our two governments to take diplomatic steps to arrange for a system of close and full consultations on the implementation of the Mutual Defense Treaty between our two countries and related matters.

[Page 161]

“Mr. President, if and when we are able to reach a definite mutual accord through diplomatic negotiation and consultations in advance on the military, economic and diplomatic measures referred to above, such safeguards would be instrumental in seeking the understanding of the Korean people, who are so strongly opposed to any reduction of the United States forces in Korea. On my part, it would be impossible to persuade the Korean people to accept the partial withdrawal by the end of June 1971, as mentioned in your letter,4 because of the unexpected shock it would give to them and the shortness of time involved. Apart from this point, if the above-mentioned accord be firmly reached, my government will then be prepared to have discussions with some flexibility in regard to its basic position, explained in my previous letter dated April 20, 1970,5 of opposing any reduction of the United States forces in Korea before the end of 1975.”

Copy has also been sent to Korean Ambassador in Washington who should have it in about two days, Prime Minister stated. Complete text by pouch.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 542, Country Files, Far East, Korea, Vol. III, 6/70–Dec 70. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis.
  2. The original letter is ibid., Box 757, Presidential Correspondence 1969–1974, Korea: President Chung Hee Park, 1970.
  3. Neither paper was found.
  4. Document 58.
  5. See Document 57.