230. Memorandum of Conversation, Washington, January 5, 1973, 2:30 p.m.1 2




  • President Nixon
  • Kim Chong-pil, Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea
  • Kim Yong-sik, Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Carl Han, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (Interpreter)
  • Richard T. Kennedy, Acting Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Henry Sullivan, Department of State (Interpreter)

DATE AND TIME: Friday, January 3, 1973
2:30 p.m.
PLACE: The Oval Office

Kim: I first wish to extend on behalf of President Park our congratulations on your landslide election and my personal congratulations. President Park had planned to attend the Truman Memorial services himself but unfortunately his schedule would not permit. Therefore I am representing him to extend our condolences.

The President: I know it is a long journey for you. I appreciate this expression of sympathy for President Truman and his family. He made a very difficult decision to commit U.S. troops to the defense of South Korea. I remember, I was a member of the U.S. Congress at the time. Many people wondered whether the Republic of Korea could survive, and you have proved to be one of the strongest countries in Asia militarily and economically. You can count on the continued support of the United States and our alliance.

I know you now have these difficult negotiations with North Korea. The world would welcome a lessening of tension in that area, but we [Page 2] recognize you must move cautiously. We will watch closely and be as helpful as we can, knowing always that it is important to keep Korea a strong and free non-Communist country.

Please tell President Park I recall our meeting in San Francisco. Now that the election is over, I hope we can meet again sometime in the new term. Meanwhile we will be in closest contact with the Ambassador. Meanwhile many people will visit Seoul from the Administration. I always advise government and business people to go to Korea when they go to Japan. I promise that if I go to Japan I will go to Korea too. I have great respect for the courage of your people and we value your friendship.

Kim: Thank you for your kind remarks. We are doing our best under our President’s leadership. If we have made any progress in development, it is because of your help, and we express our appreciation. As you aware, we have new internal arrangements in our country. We may have been simple in dealing with the Communists and we had to solidify our position at home to maximize our strength. We have changed our constitution to be able to accomplish our mission in East Asia, and better able to repay our debt of gratitude to the United States. Korea cannot survive if it is separated from the United States. We want to contribute to your efforts and be less of a burden and to express our appreciation.

We are continuing our dialogue with North Korea. There is no substantial progress thus far. No one believes we will achieve much through dialogue alone. We hope not to see a new armed aggression. We will pursue the dialogue with this in mind. While we continue the dialogue we can gain time, to keep strong so that the Communists will not try armed aggression. And we will keep you informed.

At the New Year Kim Il-sung said he will continue the four main objectives of the revolution. The dialogue is one thing; his ambition is another. We will keep strong, with your help, against this view from the North.

We need to modernize our forces as best we can do. What should we do with our forces in South Vietnam? How best can we be of assistance to your efforts?

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The President: It would be best to delay a reply until after the next round of the negotiations. Then we’ll be in touch. As you know — we have constantly consulted with you and will do so in the future in any negotiations — until we see what kind of settlement can be reached I can’t say what role the Republic of Korea can play in the future in South Vietnam. I will have your thoughts in mind and will be in touch.

Our main goal to honorably end the war as soon as it is possible. As long as it goes on, the willingness of Congress to give funds for our friends in Korea and other countries is reduced. Thus we will appreciate your support of a reasonable settlement — one which protects the rights of the people of South Vietnam to determine their own future.

You have dealt with Communists. I know of no really satisfactory settlement unless all the Communists are gone, but this is not possible in South Vietnam or in Korea. We oppose some in the Congress who have the idea we should bug out. We will still work for a settlement of the war, for unless we do, U.S. foreign policy all over the world is jeopardized.

Kim: President Park willing and ready to give whatever support you need that he can give to help you reach a settlement.

The President: I am sorry our time is so short, but with so many visitors today it’s just not possible.

Kim: I just want to add: We are restoring our national assembly and will have elections in March.

The President: I won’t lecture you like some do on your internal affairs. Some people here were disturbed but that’s your decision. I understand your problem.

I have these trinkets. He gave each a golf ball and ashtrays.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1026, Presidential/HAK Memcons, January–March 1973. Secret; Nodis. The conversation took place in the Oval Office. Prime Minister Kim and Foreign Minister Kim visited Washington to represent the Republic of Korea at the memorial service for Harry Truman on January 5. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the memorandum of conversation lists an incorrect date for the meeting, which occurred on January 5, 1973, from 2:31 until 3. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary)
  2. Nixon and Prime Minister Kim discussed Korean affairs.