70. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Military Assistance for Korea

The Under Secretaries’ Committee has looked hard at the necessity for modernizing Korea’s Armed Forces and has concluded that within the limits of the $1.0 billion 5-year program (less the value of excess equipment which might be included) modernization would be limited largely to the ground forces. To provide a reasonable level of modernization for the ROK Air Force and Navy the Under Secretaries’ Committee believes an additional $500 million over the period would be needed.2

The NSDM–483 envisaged upgrading of ROK Air/Ground defense capabilities and improvement in Air Base facilities to permit rapid reintroduction of U.S. air power and reduce vulnerability to attack. However, only $71.8 million of investment in the ROK Air Force over the 5-year period was contemplated, and no investment funds were contemplated for modernizing the ROK Navy.

It is clear that a program of balanced force modernization with the ultimate objective of ROK military self-sufficiency over the next five years will involve a very high price tag. It is equally clear that a program focused primarily towards ROK ground force modernization, while considerably less expensive, will involve a continuing and more immediate requirement to provide U.S. air and naval reinforcements in the event of a North Korean attack.

While it is unlikely that the ROK Government will be able to support a militarily self-sufficient force from its own resources and thus will seek continued substantial military assistance from us for the indefinite future, the cost of increasing ROK naval and air capabilities would be less than that required to provide equivalent U.S. force capabilities in the area.

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I believe that a modernization program for the Air Force and Navy is worth our support. This program cannot be achieved within the limits of the existing $1 billion program, and the $1.5 billion figure provides a reasonable add-on. (We may want to take a hard look at the specifics of the increases proposed for the Army, Navy and Air Force, however.)

I recommend therefore that you approve in principle a balanced force modernization program with a level of $1.5 billion for the period FY 71–75 comprising a combination of grant, MAP and excess equipment and supplies. The USC would be directed to develop detailed alternative force modernization programs.4

The USC also has recommended that you seek a FY 71 supplemental MAP appropriation of $150 million to support the Korea program but does not recommend when this request should be made. The Committee notes that additional funds also will be required for both economic and military assistance for Cambodia. Consideration will have to be given as to whether these requests and that for Korea should be combined.

The Committee does recommend, though, that the Vice President announce publicly during his visit to Seoul5 that the U.S. intends to seek a substantial supplemental appropriation for Korea force modernization this year. Ambassador Porter strongly supports this recommendation.

You have indicated that you do not want to request a supplemental before November. If the Vice President announces your intention to request a supplemental, it may tend to force your hand with the Congress and raise the question of the effect of Cambodian operations on our current MAP levels earlier than would otherwise be the case.

I recommend, therefore, that the Vice President be instructed not to announce or inform Korean officials that the U.S. intends to seek a supplemental. You will want the Vice President to make the point in general terms that we support the concept of modernization and will do all that we can subject to approval of the Congress to provide a balanced military assistance program capable of meeting ROK needs. General Michaelis would be informed of the total dimensions of our aid and would work out a one-year illustrative modernization program to show the Koreans and reassure them that their needs will indeed be met.6

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 542, Country Files, Far East, Korea, Vol. III, 6/70–Dec 70. Secret. A notation on the memorandum indicates that Kissinger signed the original, which was sent to the President on August 22. An attached August 19 memorandum from Haig to Kissinger alerted the latter to the Under Secretaries Committee recommendations.
  2. The Under Secretaries Committee’s recommendations were submitted to Nixon in an undated memorandum from U. Alexis Johnson. Johnson’s memorandum and an August 19 memorandum from Haig to Holdridge and Kennedy requesting them to “staff” Johnson’s memorandum are attached but not printed.
  3. Document 56.
  4. According to a September 2 backchannel telegram from Holdridge and Kennedy to Kissinger, President Nixon “approved a $1.5 billion level for balanced modernization of the ROK military, but adds that the upper limit of the funding authority should be held to $1.25 billion, with the balance of the program’s valuation to be provided from excess/long supply and matériel to be supplied to the ROK at no cost over the five year period.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 542, Country Files, Far East, Korea, Vol. III, 6/70–Dec 70)
  5. See footnote 2, Document 71
  6. According to the September 2 backchannel telegram from Holdridge and Kennedy to Kissinger, Porter was informed that “bearing in mind” the Vice-President’s visit, “COMUSK should inform MND he authorized to begin to discuss details force modernization program.”