67. Telegram From the Commander in Chief, Pacific (McCain) to the Department of State 1

For Assistant Secretary Green from Ambassador Brown.

Full account of today’s meeting is being sent through military channels.2 What follows involves considerable duplication but is sent in an attempt to give you a little flavor of the two sessions.
This morning the Koreans indicated that two hundred million dollars of military assistance per year for five years would be required to bring their forces to a state at which genuine modernization could begin. Coastal surveillance was a priority requirement which would involve a squadron of S–2’s. They also asked for substantial US help in establishing defense industries in Korea. They made it clear that bringing defense equipment up to date was not, in their view, modernization.
Secretary Packard’s offer to leave behind the equipment of the departing 20 thousand plus adding some substantial items from excess stock, such as 286 M–48 tanks, plus a regular MAP appropriation of 140 million dollars, plus a request for a supplemental appropriation in substantial but unspecified amount was received in silence. Jung’s only [Page 171] comment was that he was sorry to see that the equipment to be left behind included some corps artillery. This indicated to him that we intended to remove I Corps. He later stated that for US to leave behind the equipment of the departing troops would not be of any help because that equipment was already in Korea and therefore leaving it there would not increase Korea’s defense capability.
Mr. Packard’s statement that we were prepared to station US aircraft in Korea in replacement of squadrons now scheduled to be withdrawn in September was greeted with the sentence “This is of course gratifying, but I have not yet had an opportunity to tell you of the diplomatic, military and economic assurances which my government will require before it would be in a position to indicate any kind of acquiescence in any reduction of US forces.” Jung then said the ROK’s wanted to know very quickly exactly what items of equipment we would be prepared to provide for modernization, that he had expected our comments on the ROK modernization plan long before this, and that they wanted a firm commitment that 60 percent of the items in the five year modernization program would be delivered in the first two years. He also wanted us to find some way, such as a separate appropriation for Korea, which would insulate the current Korean MAP program from the effect of any cut in MAP appropriations made by the Congress. He said that he had not expected the subject of MAP transfer to be raised and that his government’s position was that we and they were bound by the Brown letter.3 Any resumption of MAP transfer was unacceptable. The defense burden on the Korean budget was already great, 23 percent. He said they wanted US help in financing defense manufacturing industries and providing raw materials for them. He asked for support of a defense science research institute to be established in the Ministry of Defense which would be the same character and “co-equal” with KIST. He would like to get about the same amount of aid for this new agency as KIST had received. He was gratified to hear that US air units would be stationed in Korea, but wanted firm assurance as to the disposition of US air and naval forces in the area and assurances as to what counter-measures they would be prepared to undertake in the event of North Korean aggression.
In the diplomatic field, in order to cushion the shock of reduction and maintain the deterrent, he had expected “faithful fulfillment” of US treaty obligations, the assurance of the redeployment of US forces [Page 172] to Korea if the treaty had to be invoked, including ground forces. He asked for “stern and forceful warning to North Korea,” and assurance that UN forces would stay in Korea in powerful and substantive strength until unification was accomplished under the UN formula. He requested assurance of close and full consultation on the fulfillment of the defense treaty which would involve, among other things, expansion of the annual Defense Ministers meeting to include Foreign Ministers. He said that any addition to the Korean defense budget, as would be involved in a resumption of MAP transfer, would impair ROK economic progress and should not come until the Korea development program had proceeded much further than it has today.
He said that the ROK Government wanted these assurances first before reductions of forces in Korea were discussed and that unless they had received sufficient assurances in the defense, diplomatic and economic fields the ROK Government could not concur in any reductions. He remarked pointedly that a unilateral reduction “would be very inappropriate.”
He said all of this with a straight face in spite of the fact that it had been made clear to him in private conversations, prior to the meeting and by Secretary Packard in the morning session that the US decision to withdraw 20 thousand men had been made and was firm.
The posture of the Korean delegation today had a strong flavor of an aggrieved party who was being deprived of his rights by a faithless friend.
Secretary Packard’s performance at this point was superb. Very quietly but very firmly he reminded the Minister that the US had maintained substantial US forces in Korea for 17 years, that there were no Soviet or Chinese forces in North Korea, and that the US had provided Korea with over 8 billion dollars in aid. He said that to assume that Korea had not made enough progress to justify the marginal decrease in forces which we were proposing was totally unrealistic. For us to specify in advance the form of assistance which we would render if our help were required under the treaty was out of the question. We would live up to our commitment under the treaty. We would provide appropriate help if required by our treaty obligation. But we would not give any more assurances or assume any additional commitments. Mr. Packard noted that at this meeting we had recognized the importance of solid defensive strength for the Korean forces. We had reaffirmed our commitment under the treaty. We had accepted the need to upgrade the Korean force’s equipment. We had moved to assure more effective air support as that required. We had offered to give them equipment from our departing troops which would provide them with a capability equivalent to that of the US forces which were leaving. If this were not attractive to them we could easily take the equipment home or dispose of it elsewhere. We intend to request a supplemental [Page 173] MAP appropriation. We were prepared to examine the possibility of developing defense industry. We had agreed to provide them with three S–2 planes within the new few weeks.
We felt, therefore, that we had fully shown our good faith. There was no possibility that we would make greater commitments or do more than we had already outlined. It would be most unfortunate if there should be a public confrontation between us. He hoped that we could conclude our discussion on a note of progress and a picture of a US sympathetic to ROK requirements.
The Minister then said that it was clear that there were wide gaps between us. He was not in a position to say “yes” or “no” to our package proposal. Perhaps we should leave the points which had been made for further discussion between our representatives in Seoul and Washington.
Jung is a capable man who feels strongly on this subject. He does so not only in terms of his own special responsibility as Minister of Defense and concern for what might happen to him if he doesn’t bring back a package satisfactory to President Park, but also because of genuine concern that the proposed withdrawal would jeopardize his country’s security.
Despite the fact that Secretary Packard, Ambassador Porter, and a number of others have tried to show him how what we have offered could be honestly and effectively presented as a real achievement on his part and a reassurance to his country-men, he refuses to see it this way. I think that he has really persuaded himself that he is right in not doing so. It is perhaps indicative of his mood that he told us at lunch today that he had been reminded by various colleagues in the Korean Assembly before he left for Honolulu of the story of a representative of an ancient Korean king who, having been unable to get an opportunity to speak at an international meeting on a matter of concern to his monarch, had very appropriately committed hari-kari on the spot.
Postscript—Agreement on a communiqué which mentions only our agreements and does not specifically refer to reduction of forces has made Jung feel a lot better. In his final comment he expressed the hope that his rather extreme demands should not be taken amiss but should be attributed to concern for his country.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 542, Country Files, Far East, Korea, Vol. III, 6/70–Dec 70. Secret; Nodis. Repeated to Seoul and to Laird. Haig initialed the telegram and noted “HAK read.”
  2. A ROK–U.S. Defense Ministerial meeting was held in Honolulu, July 22–23. Department of Defense telegram 230535Z from Packard to Laird, July 23, is attached but not printed. According to Packard’s telegram, the first day of meetings dealt with differences between ROK and the United States over the possibility of North Korean aggression. The second day dealt with the issues surrounding troop withdrawals and modernization of ROK forces.
  3. Ambassador Brown’s letter of March 4, 1965, set out the U.S. military and economic commitments to be made to South Korea in exchange for the deployment of Korean troops to Vietnam. The letter was handed to the South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs on March 7, and a sanitized version was published in the Korea Times and the Korea Republic on March 8. See Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XXIX, part 1, Korea, Document 76.