86. Telegram From the Embassy in Korea to the Department of State1

633. For Ambassador Brown. Ref State 10811.2

As you know, Michaelis’ orders are to commence withdrawal of U.S. Second Division troops from DMZ beginning from Feb 8 and their replacement by ROK First Division elements.
Korean Govt has continued its delaying tactics in its dealing with General Michaelis in effort ensure publication of joint statements and signature of military documents before troops move, it being their intention to present matter as ROK success in holding U.S. troops in position until modernization program satisfactory to ROK was achieved. We have given them no encouragement or reason to believe that joint release and other matters would be approved by 8th of February.

COMUSK has remained in close contact with MND in endeavor to induce latter’s coooperation, but MND phoned him at midnight yesterday to say Cabinet’s position remained unchanged, i.e., that ROKG will not cooperate in redeployment problem unless all papers including joint statement are agreed. Earlier in evening, MND delivered to COMUSK text of message he had sent to ROKA Chief of Staff (Suh) which said: “If and when pending problems are resolved smoothly, it is anticipated that General Michaelis, CINCUNC, will get audience with the President for consultations and issue his operational order for relief of Second U.S. Division on that date of audience. It is presumed that starting date of relief would be around 8th of February 1971.

“Inform limited number of related (sic) ROK commanders in confidence on this matter.” This document was dated 1900 hours February 1, 1971. On receipt of document COMUSK phoned MND and stated this order to Suh was not satisfactory and that starting date of relief would not be “around” 8th of February 1971; “it will commence on 8th of February.”

President Park has also not acceded to my request for meeting on these subjects. However, during call with DCM on Secretary General of Presidency (Kim) this morning, I used MND message to [Page 225] General Suh (above) to say again that in matter of redeployment of troops on 8th, there is no question of “if and when pending problems are resolved,” that we have apprised ROKG fully on question of troop deployment and have jointly developed with them plans for relief of American Second Division by ROK First Division. This evoked statement by Secretary General to effect that ROKG position is that documents, including joint statement, must be agreed before troops are moved. I said we had heard their views many times and, as they knew, we could not agree with them that our control over movement of our troops should be subordinated to ROKG satisfaction on matter involving different program, i.e., modernization.3 I went back through history of our position in this respect since start of our negotiations on March 27, 1970. I did not refer to Park’s lack of response to Michaelis’ and my requests to be received, but said I wanted to make it absolutely clear to SecGen that General Michaelis would proceed along lines with which ROKG completely familiar and that we do not accept ROK view that troop redeployment depends on negotiation of various papers. Secretary General said he hoped that Washington acceptance of Foreign Ministry counterdraft would come in time to eliminate problem, meaning before Feb 8, which confirmed belief mentioned para two above concerning manner in which they intend to present subject to ROK public. I replied that if it happens that all papers they are interested in are agreed by Feb 8, it would neither hasten nor delay redeployment, but it would be in ROK interest to exercise great care to avoid giving impression to U.S. public and Congress that ROKG had successfully refused to cooperate on matter of our troop redeployments until they were satisfied in matter of modernization. SecGen listened carefully but did not respond to this.
I said that if there is no joint statement prior to Feb 8, and if as result ROKs make no comment on U.S. withdrawal from DMZ, my govt might feel it desirable to notify American public of commencement of withdrawal, as matter would have historic significance for American people whose sons had stood guard on that line for twenty years.
I recommend that you consider whether statement along lines para five would be useful from our viewpoint. In addition to historic aspect, it seems to me redeployment should be cited as major U.S. move to lessen tension in Korean Peninsula. If ROKs do not cooperate, I do not believe they should be permitted to obscure our move for their own [Page 226] election or other reasons. If you agree, please inform whether you will produce draft or whether you wish us to submit ideas.4
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 542, Country Files, Far East, Korea, Vol. IV, 1 Jan–31 Dec 1971. Secret; Priority; Exdis.
  2. Dated January 21, it transmitted Rogers’s instructions to Porter and Michaelis to begin withdrawal from the DMZ without a joint statement with the Korean Government on troop redeployment or ROK agreement to modernization. Rogers also instructed Porter to meet with Park to explain U.S. reasoning and to inform him that a joint statement would be issued at a time suitable to both governments. (Ibid.)
  3. Telegram 18966 to Seoul, February 4, instructed that President Park be informed that “USG has concluded that ROK five year force structure and modernization plan, as developed by joint military committees in Seoul, would provide an acceptable framework for the modernization of Korean military.” (Ibid.)
  4. Telegram 18181 to Seoul, February 3, concurred fully with the Ambassador’s actions and stated the view that it was “important you continue to drive point home that U.S. troop redeployment and DMZ withdrawal decisions are firm, and that implementation is not repeat not contingent upon agreement of joint statement.” (Ibid.)