Office of the Historian
Bureau of Public Affairs
United States Department of State
May 4, 2010
The Department of State released today Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969–1976, Volume XIX, Part 1, Korea, 1969–1972. (Part 2 of the volume on U.S. bilateral relations with Japan, 1969–1972 will be published at a later date.) During the first Nixon administration, Washington confronted an array of difficult foreign policy questions concerning the Korean peninsula. The preponderance of documents published in this volume concern security issues. As in earlier years, U.S. policymakers continued to deal with North Korean provocations between 1969 and 1972, the most serious being the North Korean Air Force’s destruction of a U.S. surveillance (EC–121) airplane over the Sea of Japan in April 1969. The U.S. military presence in South Korea also surfaced as an important topic. During Nixon’s first term, the United States reduced its forces in Korea from 63,000 to 43,000 soldiers. Although President Park was unable to prevent the U.S. drawdown, he did extract aid with which to modernize the South Korean military. Other records in this publication relate to the deployment of South Korean combat forces in Vietnam.
This volume documents U.S. satisfaction with the Republic of Korea’s increasing confidence as an international actor, a result of the South’s burgeoning economic prosperity and its (uneven) growth in political stability. Park successfully thwarted efforts to improve the relationship between Japan and North Korea. Instead, South Korea made its own contacts with the North Korean Government, an initiative that yielded few tangible results but did promote regional stability. Nonetheless, the Nixon administration was not fully successful at allaying Seoul’s misgivings about two of Nixon’s most important foreign policy initiatives: the improvement in relations between the United States and China, and the U.S. departure from Vietnam. Park’s fears about U.S. reliability added to tensions that resulted from economic competition, especially in the textile trade.
The Republic of Korea’s skepticism of the U.S. security guarantee was used to justify authoritarian domestic policies. In 1970 Park and his party amended the Korean Constitution to permit his election to a third term as the country’s president. The following year, the two titans of late 20th century South Korean politics, Park Chung Hee and Kim Dae Jung, competed for the presidency. Department of State officials endeavored to demonstrate balance by making themselves available to both candidates. When Park, victorious in the 1971 election, declared martial law in October 1972, the U.S. Government expressed frustration with this blow to the Republic of Korea’s political institutions. U.S. officials feared that alliance with South Korea could be seen by some as implicating them in Park’s actions. Given Park’s determination to adopt anti-democratic measures, U.S. efforts to respond by punishing South Korea would likely be either ineffective or create instability there, either outcome potentially damaging the U.S.-Korean relationship.
The volume is available as a downloadable PDF on the Office of the Historian website at http://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-76v19p1. Copies of the volume will be available for purchase from the U.S. Government Printing Office online at http://bookstore.gpo.gov (GPO S/N 044–000–02610–4; ISBN 978–0–16–077108–8), or by calling toll-free 1-866-512-1800 (D.C. area 202-512-1800). For further information, contact Susan Weetman, Acting General Editor of the Foreign Relations series, at (202) 663–1276 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.