65. Memorandum From John H. Holdridge of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1
- “Re-aligned Configuration” of Two U.S. Divisions in Korea
Ambassador Porter and General Michaelis have suggested that one way for us to ease President Park’s political problems over U.S. troop reductions would be to retain both U.S. divisions in a “re-aligned” configuration involving the replacement of U.S. brigades being withdrawn by ROK brigades. Divisional command would be retained by the U.S. (See Ambassador Porter’s back-channel message at Tab B.)2 You have asked if we could do this.
Theoretically speaking, there would appear to be no reason why the re-alignment suggested by Ambassador Porter and General Michaelis cannot be carried out. There is a long history of Koreans serving with American units under U.S. command, dating all the way back to the Korean war. “KATUSAs” (Korean Army troops assigned to U.S. Army units) still are a feature of our forces in Korea, and the addition of two ROK brigades to a U.S. division to replace two U.S. brigades would not be a vast change from this pattern. If it would meet President Park’s political desiderata of retaining what could be described as two U.S. divisions, we would want to consider carrying this recommendation out.
However, information which has just been provided by Defense on our proposed troop reductions indicates that one entire division is to be withdrawn along with Army and Corps supporting units, leaving one division consisting of eight maneuver battalions. The question here is whether there would be enough of a U.S. framework remaining upon which a mixed U.S.–ROK division under U.S. command could be assembled. It might be possible to apportion the U.S. battalions in such a way as to provide a nucleus for two divisions, with the rest made of ROKs, but I suspect that Defense would balk at having U.S. forces in such a minority position. This would also require around four ROK brigades, not the two which Ambassador Porter and General Michaelis call for in their proposal. Alternatively one mixed division could be assembled, leaving the U.S. division considerably under [Page 167] strength. Porter and Michaelis are evidently operating on the assumption that two brigades from the U.S. 2nd Division are to be removed, but that one will remain to which two ROK brigades could be added. I recall from earlier discussions with Defense on U.S. force reductions in Korea that Defense was thinking in such terms, but the signals appear to have been switched. Ambassador Porter might be asked if his proposal is fully compatible with the latest Defense planning.
Assuming that this proposal is compatible with Defense planning, another problem is involved: that of retaining U.S. forces along the DMZ. One feature of the present reduction plan is that with the exception of one company rotated to Panmunjom for security duty from the remaining U.S. division, the ROKs would man the entire DMZ. Under Ambassador Porter’s concept, the two ROK brigades in the 2nd Division would assume places on the line, thereby leaving what in name would be a full U.S. division along the DMZ. The advantages of a U.S. pull-back would then no longer obtain, i.e. lowering the chances of a direct U.S.-North Korean confrontation from the very outset of a significant North Korean military move across the DMZ. I believe that Ambassador Porter might be asked for his thoughts on this issue.
Another immediate problem I can foresee is the purely technical one of getting Ambassador Porter’s message into regular instead of back channels. [5 lines not declassified] We could also ask him to address the two problems I mentioned above. I have drafted a message from you to Ambassador Porter to this effect (Tab A).3
Larry Lynn concurs.4
That you clear the message to Ambassador Porter at Tab A.5
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 542, Country Files, Far East, Korea, Vol. III, 6/70–Dec 70. Top Secret. Sent for action.↩
- Dated July 1, attached but not printed.↩
- Attached but not printed.↩
- Lynn initialed his concurrence.↩
- Kissinger wrote the following note at the top of the first page: “OK to send backchannel as edited.HK”; another note indicates the message was sent July 13.↩