238. Minutes of Senior Review Group Meeting, Washington, June 15, 1973, 3:03 p.m.–3:45 p.m.1 2

June 15, 1973

Time and Place: 3:03 p. m. - 3:45 p. m., White House Situation Room

Subject: U.S. Policy Toward Korea (NSSM 154) and the Korean Force Modernization Program


  • Chairman
  • Henry Kissinger
  • State
  • William Porter
  • Richard Sneider
  • Donald Ranard
  • Martin Herz
  • Defense
  • William Clements
  • Robert Hill
  • Dennis Doolin
  • R /Adm. Charles Tesh
  • JCS
  • Adm. Thomas Moorer
  • V /Adm. John Weinel
  • CIA
  • William Colby
  • Theodore Shockley
  • OMB
  • Dolf Bridgewater
  • NSC
  • B/Gen. Brent Scowcroft
  • Richard Kennedy
  • John Froebe
  • Richard Solomon
  • Philip Odeen
  • James Hackett


It was agreed that:

  • — The State Department will hold its draft cable to Embassy Seoul giving the U.S. view of the proposed South Korean foreign policy initiatives until it has been carefully reviewed by the members of the SRG. The Department may inform Embassy Seoul that instructions will be provided by June 19 for Ambassador Habib to follow in his discussions with the South Koreans on their proposed initiatives. Another SRG meeting will be held on June 18 to determine the nature of the instructions.
  • CIA will prepare a National Intelligence Estimate on where the proposed policy changes are likely to lead, for consideration at the June 18 meeting.
  • — Defense will prepare a paper for the June 18 meeting which will consider the ramifications of a possible termination of the United Nations Command in Korea, including the effects this would have on the U.N. Status of Forces Agreement for U.S. base, in Japan, the US/ROK force relationship in Korea and the Korean Force Modernization Program.

Mr. Kissinger: We’ve got two problems here, the evolution of our political relations with Korea and the question of the Korean force structure. We also have to consider how we should respond to (Ambassador) Habib’s request for guidance in his discussions with the ROKs on their proposed foreign policy initiatives, and what we should do about UNCURK this year.

Mr. Porter: Habib is under pressure to talk with the Koreans tomorrow and we want to get a cable out to him tonight.

Mr. Kissinger: I can’t believe that our relations with the South Koreans depend on Habib talking with them tomorrow. Why does he have to talk with them tomorrow?

Mr. Porter: They think every day counts. They are afraid the North Koreans may do something that will steal the initiative from them. They have developed a new policy and they want to complete consultations on it and announce it. We have put the issues into this telegram and we’d like the group to look at it and discuss it point by point.

Mr. Kissinger: I hate to think that our relations with Korea are such that Habib’s conversation can’t be put off for a few days. We just received the cable.

Mr. Porter: The Koreans are insisting that we get started with them. They are pressing for our advice.

Mr. Kissinger: One of the concerns I have about this is that we have complicated discussions with the Chinese and we make points with them when we tell them about something we plan to do anyway. Do we have to cover all of these issues with the Koreans right at the beginning?

Mr. Porter: No, this is just the beginning of a dialogue. We are just responding to their request for comments on their proposed initiatives. We will be fleshing all this out later.

Mr. Kissinger: You have the abolition of the U.N. Command in here!

[Page 3]

Mr. Porter: But we would get something for it. We would get guarantees from the North Koreans. It’s all explained in the cable.

Mr. Kissinger: I understand very well what you are saying; I would just like to prepare a more measured response. I understand what Habib wants. He doesn’t want any recognition of North Korea unless the PRC and USSR are prepared to recognize South Korea. Before getting into the details of the cable, I would like to discuss where we are going and what we are trying to accomplish. Then we can discuss the cable.

Porter: We’ll do it any way you like, but if we don’t get the cable out soon we may not be able to reach you again for awhile.

Mr. Kissinger: I want to see where all of this leaves us with the Soviets and the PRC. That’s very important. We’ll be seeing the Soviet leadership next week. I don’t care about North Korea.

Mr. Porter: (President) Park wants to make his policy statement June 23. He’s afraid it will be pre-empted by the North. We can consult with the USSR and PRC concerning any adjustment we may want to agree to in the U.N. in return for adequate guarantees.

Mr. Kissinger: Such as?

Mr. Porter: North Korean recognition of the DMZ and armistice line and a guarantee to honor them.

Mr. Kissinger: I’m more interested in the views of the PRC and the Soviets than those of Pyongyang. The idea is that the U.S. would approach the PRC and the Soviets and ask them to endorse-the guarantees?

Mr. Porter: Yes, on matters concerning the security of the Korean Peninsula.

Mr. Kissinger: When would we make these arrangements on the security of Korea?

Mr. Porter: During the debate in the U.N. this fall. We see the possibility of stating our willingness to support a change in the U.N. Command providing they are prepared to accept an agreement guaranteeing the security of the peninsula. We want to establish the principle first and fill in the details later.

Mr. Kissinger: What’s the principle?

[Page 4]

Mr. Porter: Just that. They agree to accept and preserve the armistice line and DMZ.

Mr. Kissinger: And what do we accept, a statement by North Korea?

Mr. Porter: Essentially that.

Mr. Kissinger: We would say that we are prepared to disband the U.N. Command in return for a verbal statement by North Korea?

Mr. Porter: We are not being that specific. We are just giving an indication that we may be prepared to do so. We want to be prepared for the U.N. resolution on Korea.

Mr. Kissinger: What U.N. resolution?

Mr. Porter: There’s one every year.

Mr. Kissinger: There wasn’t one last year because we stopped it.

Mr. Porter: We can’t stop it this year.

Mr. Kissinger: We can’t or we don’t want to?

Mr. Porter: The South Koreans don’t want to.

Mr. Kissinger: For their own policy reasons they may not want to, but what about our policy reasons?

Mr. Herz: The situation has changed substantially since last year. North Korea has just been admitted to the World Health Organization by a large margin and it looks as though we would be severely beaten on UNCURK if it came to a vote. The South Koreans appreciate that and want to modify their policy accordingly.

Mr. Kissinger: Do the South Koreans want merely to suspend UNCURK?

Mr. Porter: No, they’re prepared to dissolve it.

Mr. Ranard: The ROKs know they can’t keep UNCURK. The question of whether it is dissolved, suspended, terminated or whatever is just a matter of terminology.

Mr. Kissinger: What do you think, Bill (Colby)?

[Page 5]

Mr. Colby: I think we’re giving away a lot for a mere declaration by the North Koreans.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Clements) What do you think?

Mr. Clements: Frankly, I’m taken by surprise by this cable. Do I understand correctly that the ROKs want us to support their new moves?

Mr. Porter: They want to take a number of initiatives, but before they do they want to consult with a number of governments, including the U.S.

Mr. Sneider: They have already consulted with the British and French.

Mr. Clements: I’m surprised that President Park would put us in this situation, with such a short fuse.

Mr. Porter: The U.N. problem always looms large for the Koreans at this time of the year. Park has decided to take these steps and wants to move ahead with them before the North Koreans pre-empt the initiative.

Mr. Kissinger: He wants suggestions from us?

Mr. Porter: Not especially from us, he is discussing his proposals with various countries.

Mr. Kissinger: We don’t have to give a blanket endorsement to all of these proposals. We have interests that are more important to us than what Habib says to the South Koreans tomorrow.

Mr. Porter: We wish to make clear that any changes in the status of the United Nations Command would have no effect on the maintenance of U.S. troops in Korea under our mutual security arrangement. We also have special arrangements for bases in Japan as a result of the U.N. Command structure in Korea. If we can get the guarantees we want from the Soviets and the PRC concerning the stabilization of the Korean peninsula, we will then want to consider revisions in the U.N. Command, but not anything that will affect the status of U.S. troops. We want to be sure that is completely clear.

Adm. Moorer: What about our bases in Japan?

Mr. Porter: We understand the Japanese will be sympathetic to changes that will permit us to keep the bases.

[Page 6]

Adm. Moorer: That means we will have to renegotiate our treaty with the Japanese.

Mr. Sneider: No, we won’t. There are two separate agreements with the Japanese. Regardless of what happens to the U.N. Command, any resumption of hostilities in Korea would be a violation of the U.N. Charter. We have an agreement with the Japanese aside from the U.N. Command, which was confirmed just recently in the Nixon/Sato communiqué. There is a general statement by the Japanese on the public record that they will support us in any hostilities that may break out in Korea.

Mr. Kissinger: How much can you rely on that?

Mr. Clements: The Japanese are vitally affected by this proposed change of policy by the ROKs, and so are the PRC and the Soviets. They all have to be consulted.

Kissinger: When you consult the Japanese it’s the same as putting it in the newspapers.

Mr. Sneider: That’s not true. We consulted them on the Korean North-South talks and there were no leaks at all.

Porter: If you want to consider the issues addressed in the cable at greater length, we can give some interim guidance to Habib.

Adm. Moorer: The instructions to the Ambassador should not conflict with what we intend to do this fall in the U.N.

Mr. Porter: That’s understood.

Adm. Moorer: We at Defense would like to look at this message for a few hours before commenting on it.

Mr. Porter: We’re not trying to present you with a fait accompli.

Mr. Kissinger: But you’ve managed to do so anyway. Park is not going to announce the new policy before June 23rd in any case, so we do have some time to consider the ramifications of these steps.

Mr. Herz: The South Koreans have to consult with the members of UNCURK. It’s essential for them to do so. We should get our comments to them in time for them to be able to do that before the announcement.

Mr. Ranard: They’ve asked our views on these various things they plan to propose. We should respond to them.

[Page 7]

Mr. Kissinger: Has CIA made an assessment of this?

Mr. Colby: We prepared a National Intelligence Estimate a few weeks ago, but not on these specific proposals.

Mr. Kissinger: Can you get us an assessment quickly?

Mr. Colby: I can have you one by Monday (June 18).

Mr. Kissinger: O.K., do that in any case, regardless of what we decide to do about this cable.

Mr. Clements: We (DOD) want to take a look at the cable.

Mr. Kissinger: What I want to know is where is this process leading us. What do we want to encourage Park to do? What process in Korea do we want to encourage? One could argue that to spill our views of the whole package at one time, before other countries have shown their hand, could back us into a position we may not want to be in.

Mr. Sneider: This is not a proposal to abolish the U.N. Command. The ROKs merely want to have discussions about it.

Mr. Kissinger: Has anyone else seen this cable?

Mr. Clements: I’m reading it now.

Mr. Kissinger: That’s no way to clear a cable.

Mr. Clements: I know that, but I hadn’t seen it before.

Mr. Porter: We can tell Habib that we are not prepared to give him instructions right now, but that we will try to get them to him by June 23rd.

Mr. Kissinger: It’s not necessary to do that. You can tell him he will have his guidance on Tuesday (June 19); that will give us the weekend to think about it.

Mr. Porter: That’s O.K. with me. I have no aversion to keeping Park waiting a bit. That will meet my requirements.

Mr. Kissinger: I want to get the views of the Joint Chiefs on the bases in Japan. We may also want to say something in the cable about the U.N. Command. I’d like to have another meeting on this subject before we decide on the cable. Monday is bad because of the Brezhnev visit.

Mr. Sneider: What about Sunday?

[Page 8]

Mr. Kissinger: No, I have to be in Key Biscayne. Let’s try for 2:30 p.m. on Monday.

Mr. Porter: What would you like to have for that meeting?

Mr. Kissinger I want the National Intelligence Estimate we discussed. It should address the question of where all this will lead us.

Mr. Porter: What about the U.N. Command?

Mr. Kissinger: I have no strong feelings about retaining the Command.

I have thought for some time that the U.N. Command might be dispensable, providing our security agreement is retained.

Mr. Clements: What do you want from Defense?

Mr. Kissinger: I’d like your views on the base problem.

Mr. Clements: Do you want something on military assistance?

Mr. Kissinger: No, we can discuss that in connection with the Force Modernization Program on Monday.

Adm. Moorer: We have a forthcoming meeting with the South Koreans. We should give our people some guidance.

Mr. Kissinger: I don’t want our people getting carried away by the enthusiasm of the South Koreans and going off topping their offers by 20%. O.K., we’ll meet again on Monday (June 18) at 2:30 p.m.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–113, SRG Minutes (Originals) 1972–3 [2 of 4]. Secret. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room. The June 18 meeting of the SRG was subsequently cancelled. On May 25, Habib reported that South Korea’s “new policy is acceptance of a two-Korea policy for an indefinite period while maintaining the ultimate objective of reunification.” (Telegram 3353 from Seoul; ibid., Record Group 59, Central Foreign Policy Files.) Habib provided the Embassy’s recommendations on South Korea’s “Two Koreas” policy shift. (Telegram 3438 from Seoul, May 30; ibid.)
  2. The Senior Review Group gathered to discuss U.S. policy toward Korea.