82. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Vice President’s Meeting with Korean Foreign Minister Choe Kyu-ha


  • Choe, Kyu-ha, Korean Foreign Minister
  • Kim, Dong-jo, Ambassador of Korea
  • The Vice President
  • Arthur Sohmer, Administrative Assistant to the Vice President
  • General Dunn, Military Assistant to the Vice President
  • Kent Crane, Assistant to the Vice President for Foreign Affairs

Foreign Minister Choe opened the meeting by saying he was in the United States for the annual UN debate on Korea. He was pleased to report [Page 217] that our position once again had prevailed,2 and he expressed gratitude for the cooperation extended to him by the US delegation at the UN. Choe had seen President Park just before leaving, and the President wished Vice President Agnew to know that he appreciated the Vice President’s visit to Korea, wished he could have stayed longer and hoped he would come again.3 The Vice President said he regretted that his visit to Korea was so short, but was pleased to have had the chance to travel around the country even briefly. The Vice President had been greatly impressed by the professionalism and high morale exhibited by the ROK Army unit he had visited. He had also been impressed by the film President Park had shown him on North Korean war preparations and wished that other Americans might have an opportunity to see such films, which put communist activities into proper perspective.

The Vice President said he was pleased with the talks on modernization of the ROK Armed Forces. He felt certain that good progress would be made in these talks, but as he had told President Park, the US cannot go beyond the provisions of our 1954 treaty. Our treaty with Korea is worded much the same as all our other treaties, so it would be inappropriate, and in fact impossible, to try to alter the provisions of one treaty without creating difficulties with our other treaties. Moreover, Americans consider the wording of our treaties significant and binding—not only as regards limitations, but also as regards positive commitments.

Aside from our firm treaty commitments, the Koreans should also consider the $150 million which the President had earmarked for the ROK in his supplemental aid request to Congress as further evidence of our continuing support. Although we will certainly have additional problems with antiwar elements, the President has made it clear to the Congressional leadership that he regards all our commitments as being equally important—those in Europe, the Middle East and the Far East. Therefore, he regards the supplemental aid request as an indivisible package which cannot be sliced apart by special interest groups. For example, he has indicated he will not accept an appropriation of funds for Israel—a course of action which might have a certain political attraction in some quarters.

[Page 218]

There was only one outstanding problem in USROK relations which deeply concerned the Vice President, because it might be used by the neo-isolationist forces in the Senate to undermine our supplemental aid request for Korea. That problem concerned continuing Korean fishing for Pacific salmon. As the ROK Government has been informed many times before, Pacific salmon are regarded by us as a resource of the US and Canada, maintained and nurtured at great expense to the taxpayers of those two countries. The Vice President was worried because representatives of our fishing industry had approached doves in the Senate concerning Korean actions, and their complaints might affect passage of the supplemental.

Ambassador Kim launched into a long explanation of ROK actions regarding the salmon problem. He noted that Senator Stevens and representatives of State had discussed the problem with the ROK last year and the ROK had agreed not to catch salmon. In accordance with that agreement the ROK had issued no licenses for salmon this year, but some fishermen had nevertheless illegally poached salmon. The ROK had attempted to stop these violators, but Senator Stevens had become very upset and caused State to initially refuse to enter into fishing discussions this year with Korea. However, Ambassador McKernan had recently been in Seoul, and State now seemed to be satisfied with the ROK explanation of the problem.

The Vice President replied that our information was that a considerable amount of fishing is going on despite the ROK efforts to stop it. After so many discussions, even an isolated incident could be used by opponents of USROK cooperation. The Vice President hoped that the ROK would again look into this serious problem.

Foreign Minister Choe then addressed himself to several points which had come up in the preceding conversation. He said he would pass on the Vice President’s comments about the film President Park had shown him and would attempt to get a copy of the film for the Vice President’s retention. Regarding modernization of ROK forces, the Foreign Minister was pleased that the House had approved our supplemental request and hoped the Senate would follow suit. The Foreign Minister said he was aware that Vice President Agnew, as President of the Senate, could be of great assistance in this regard. The Vice President interjected that, although one cannot rely on much in Washington, one thing is absolutely certain—the President of the Senate has little influence on the actions of that august body. Choe insisted that the Vice President was being unduly modest. For instance, the Vice President’s trip to Korea had been most helpful, and force modernization talks were now going very well.

Continuing his summation, Choe said that he, too, was astounded that Korean fishing boats were still entering our waters for salmon. He [Page 219] felt that Ambassador McKernan had highlighted this problem, and Ambassador Porter’s démarche to President Park had also underscored America’s deep concern. The President had promised Ambassador Porter to do everything in his power to prevent the illegal fishing from continuing. Thus the Foreign Minister believed that the fishing problem would be resolved to our satisfaction in the very near future. Meanwhile, the Korean fishing industry was in need of better facilities and the Foreign Minister noted with pleasure that Ambassador McKernan had agreed in principle last year that the US might help out. The Vice President simply noted that we would be glad to discuss such matters, because we wish to be helpful to our good Korean allies in as many ways as possible.

The Vice President asked if there had been any reduction in the number of provocative incidents generated by North Korea. Choe said the North Korean approach had assumed a different character of late. The DMZ was well defended now, so the enemy was coming around by sea in high speed boats, most of which were provided by the Soviets. The problem was therefore more difficult due to the many small islands off the South Korean coast which had to be defended. Still the North Koreans had no chance of seriously disturbing the situation in South Korea, and in fact, there was now some good news for the South Koreans. The Foreign Minister had noted in news reports that a North Korean major had defected yesterday in his Mig–15. This was the first good break for the South Koreans after a long series of unfortunate incidents: the Pueblo capture, the EC–121 shoot down, the hijacking of a commercial airliner (whose crew was still being held) and the kidnapping of the crew of a South Korean loudspeaker boat.

In closing the Foreign Minister said he was very pleased with the sincere spirit of cooperation which he had found among US officials.4 He doubted that there were any difficulties which our two countries could not jointly handle together. The Vice President heartily agreed. The one thing which the Vice President admired most about the Koreans was their forthright way of discussing problems. We Americans understand and appreciate the direct approach. We believe it is the most efficient and effective way for friends to resolve their differences. At the Vice President’s request the Foreign Minister promised to convey his regards to President Park, and also to indicate the Vice President’s strong interest in the supplemental aid request.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 542, Country Files, Far East, Korea, Vol. III, 6/70–Dec 70. Secret; Nodis. Presumably drafted by Kent Crane, who attached it to a December 29 memorandum to Jeanne Davis.
  2. On October 30, the First Committee of the UN General Assembly defeated a draft resolution that called for the simultaneous and unconditional admission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea to take part, without the right to vote, in future UN discussions relating to Korea. The First Committee did approve a draft resolution that allowed representatives of both states to participate in discussion of the Korean question provided that they unequivocally accepted the competence and authority of the United Nations to take action on the Korean question within the terms of the Charter. See Yearbook of the United Nations, 1970, pp. 209–210.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 71.
  4. In telegram 198600 to Seoul, December 4, Irwin reported his conversations with Choi, which were basically a reprise of this meeting. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 KOR S)