64. Letter From President Nixon to Korean President Park1
Dear President Park:
I have received and carefully considered your letter of June 152 in which you comment further on my decision to withdraw 20,000 United States troops from Korea by the end of June 1971.
The United States commitment to the defense of Korea, embodied in the Mutual Defense Treaty between our Governments, was reaffirmed when we met last in California during August 1969.3 At that time we agreed that the military forces of Korea and those of the United States stationed in Korea must remain strong and alert. Most importantly, we reaffirmed our determination to meet armed attack against Korea in accordance with that Treaty.[Page 165]
As I said in my letter of May 26,4 and as I have also stated publicly, the maintenance of treaty obligations is a fundamental principle of my policy toward Asia. In this you have my assurance in both word and deed. Not only will the forces remaining in Korea provide the powerful and substantial deterrent you seek, but the continued United States presence among them will also serve as the best possible demonstration to both friend and enemy of our commitment to Korea’s defense and security.
I am fully sympathetic, of course, to your position that any reduction of United States forces be accompanied by a strengthening of the Republic of Korea Forces. As you know from my letter, this is basic to my plan. The United States will provide, subject to Congressional approval, a compensatory increase in military assistance for Korea for the purpose of modernizing your military forces. To bring this about I intend to brief leaders of Congress on these plans as soon as possible in order to obtain their support so that modernization can begin.
It is my earnest desire, Mr. President, that we move forward together. I believe the time has now come for our representatives to sit down together and discuss my program and the necessary modernization of your military forces. The Republic of Korea Forces Development Objectives Plan has been very helpful in assisting our planning for Korean modernization requirements, and we shall look forward to receiving your Government’s five year overall modernization plan to which you refer in your letter. Simultaneous with such discussions, I hope you will find it possible to take the initiative in presenting my decision to your countrymen.
With best wishes5
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 757, Presidential Correspondence 1969–1974, Korea: President Chung Hee Park, 1970. Secret. A typed note indicates the letter was pouched on July 9. On June 19, Rogers sent a draft of this letter to the President with the recommendation that he sign it. Kissinger forwarded a substantially revised draft to the President under a June 28 covering memorandum that summarized Park’s letter of June 15 and suggested modifications and subsequent actions. Kissinger stated that Park would probably modify his position of total opposition if the United States initiated a “major modernization program for ROK forces” before U.S. departure, which “might be as much as $2 billion or more,” and assured the ROK that the United States would “reinforce our units in the event of aggression.” Kissinger noted that Park “is now publicizing the issue in Korea in an attempt to block any withdrawal until after the Presidential election of May 1971.” Kissinger concluded: “I believe that we must not let Park feel that he can interfere with your decision by misuse of publicity on this issue,” and he recommended that the President sign the letter. On an undated memorandum from Holdridge to Kissinger, transmitting the June 28 memorandum, Kissinger wrote: “I feel sorry for Park.” (All ibid.)↩
- See Document 61.↩
- See Document 35.↩
- Document 58.↩
- The text of Nixon’s letter was transmitted in telegram 107000 to Seoul, July 6, for immediate delivery to President Park. In telegram 3559 from Seoul, July 9, Lathram commented on Korean press reports of Park’s reaction to anticipated U.S. troop cuts. Lathram concluded that “we speculate that ROKG at long last has accepted inevitable but still hopes through negotiation to secure prior modernization commitments and some postponement timing of reductions.” (Both in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 542, Country Files, Far East, Korea, Vol. III, 6/70–Dec 70)↩