79. Memorandum From John H. Holdridge of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1
- U.S./ROK Joint Statement
You will recall that as an aftermath of the Vice President’s visit to Korea2 the ROK Government tried to obtain a statement from us to the effect that we would provide full prior consultation to the ROKs before undertaking any further troop reductions. In addition, the ROKs wanted the statement to say that we would take no actions contrary to the wishes of the Korean Government. Finally, they wanted a public declaration from us that we would automatically commit our forces to the defense of the ROK in the event of a Communist attack.
We have of course maintained the position that we could not issue any statement containing such sweeping provisions. Ambassador Porter stonewalled the ROKs, and eventually they climbed down and expressed willingness to accept a statement (to be issued jointly) expressing satisfaction with the just-completed talks on modernization of the Korean ROK armed forces and the reduction of U.S. troops in Korea, noting that annual U.S./ROK high-level security consultations would be held to assess the nature of the military threat directed against [Page 199] the ROK, and reaffirming the continuing validity of the U.S./ROK Mutual Defense Treaty. State believes that a public pronouncement of this nature would be useful in reassuring the ROKs on the retention of the U.S. presence in Korea, and President Park has agreed on the issuance of a joint statement along the lines indicated.
At Tab C is the text of the proposed joint statement as originally sent over for clearance by State.3 We had no problem with the first two paragraphs; however, we felt that the use of the word “commitment” in the third paragraph, while substantively not requiring anything more of the U.S. than the language of the Mutual Defense Treaty requires, might be misconstrued by people such as Senators Fulbright and Symington who are attempting to create the impression that the U.S. is assuming new commitments in East Asia. (The language of the Mutual Defense Treaty simply requires us to consult on what action might be taken to meet an armed attack in accordance with our respective constitutional procedures.) Accordingly, State submitted a re-draft of paragraph 3 which states that U.S. troop reductions do not affect the “determination” of the U.S. to meet armed attack against the ROK in accordance with the Mutual Defense Treaty (Tab A).4 This language was drawn almost verbatim from the joint statement by the President and Park Chung Hee of August 22, 1969 (Tab B).5 It should therefore be acceptable.
That you clear State’s draft of the U.S./ROK joint statement, as amended at Tab A.6
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 542, Country Files, Far East, Korea, Vol. III, 6/70–Dec 70. Secret; Exdis. Sent for action. Haig initialed the memorandum. Another notation indicates that S/S was informed on November 18 at 5:50 p.m.↩
- See footnote 2, Document 71.↩
- Tab C, a draft cable to Seoul, is attached but not printed.↩
- Tab A, attached but not printed, is a memorandum from Curran to Davis, November 13.↩
- Tab B is attached but not printed. For text of the joint statement, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pp. 682–683.↩
- Kissinger initialed the approve option. The statement was transmitted in telegram 189173 to Seoul, November 19, for discussion with the Korean Government. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 542, Far East, Korea, Vol. III, 6/70–Dec 70)↩