249. Minutes of the Secretary of State’s Staff Meeting, Washington, January 25, 1974.1 2


January 28, 1974

Secretary’s Staff Meeting, January 25, 1974


The Secretary decided that:

p. 14-15 1. Concerning Korean internal political structure, the basic need is to determine our interest in Korea rather than to push our views regarding democracy and its merits.
p. 30 2. Instructions be prepared for Embassy Seoul promptly after the SRG meeting on Korea (Feb. concerning how we propose to proceed
p. 32 regarding the UN Command and the successor situation we desire to see created regarding security arrangements.
p. 33 3. The question of force levels the US maintains in Korea be addressed in the NSSM response for the Friday February 1st SRG meeting.
p. 34-35 4. The US strategy on the Korean Peninsula over a 5 year period be addressed in the NSSM response.
p. 36 5. Any U.S. movement in regard to relations with North Korea be first be discussed with the ROK Government and that the pace of U.S.
p. 41 movement in relation with North Korea be kept in balance with Soviet and PRC movement toward relations with the ROK.
p. 43 6. S/PC should develop the North-South portion of S/S 7400714 in relation to objectives we should try to accomplish in relation to North Korea-South Korea contacts and most importantly in relation to U.S.-North Korean contacts.

[Samual R. Gamma signed for]
Thomas R. Pickering
Executive Secretary

[Page 02]

In Attendance

  • Secretary of State Kissinger
  • D - Mr. Rush
  • P - Mr. Porter
  • T - Mr. Donaldson
  • C - Mr. Sonnenfeldt
  • EA - Mr. Sneider
  • PM - Mr. S. Weiss
  • M - Mr. Brown
  • Amb. - Korea - Mr. Habib
  • EA - Mr. Ranard
  • S/PC - Mr. Finn
  • S/PC - Mr. Lord
  • S - Mr. Eagleburger
  • S/S - Mr. Pickering
[Page 03]

(The meeting was convened at 3:07 p.m., Secretary Kissinger presiding as Chairman.)

SECRETARY KISSINGER: This is going to be a rough session. The only way to avoid an argument is to say nothing!


Who’s an expert? Who wants to lead off?

MR. HABIB: I think the plot involves my leading off. And I’d like to take five minutes, Mr. Secretary.

I think when we consider Korea, I’d like to restate what I’ve always understood to be our fundamental objective in the country in terms of our own interest — of defining it in terms of our own interest —- and that is the prevention of the outbreak of hostilities on the Korean Peninsula.

I think if you state that as simply as I’ve stated it, everything flows from it. It’s an objective, it’s an interest, that we’ve pursued for 20-odd years successfully. And it’s one which continues to preoccupy anybody that has anything to do with Korea — how do you prevent the outbreak of hostilities on the Korean Peninsula — because unless you prevent the outbreak of hostilities on the Korean Peninsula, everything else begins [Page 04] to go wrong. Given the nature of our commitment and the historical relationship, the deep involvement — the very deep involvement, both physical and financial, that we actually have in the country, and all the other ties that are involved — if you get an outbreak of hostilities, you would immediately involve the United States in terms of its historical and security commitments.

As things have been changing in Asia and in Northeast Asia —

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Who actually wrote this paper?

MR. HABIB: He’s not here. The principal drafter was Wes Kriebel and the second was Don Ranard, and they had some help from Dick Finn.

MR. FINN: I think we did — we three.


MR. HABIB: In my own opinion, the other drafter ought to be here also; the principal drafter ought to be at the meeting. Why do you limit this thing?

SECRETARY KISSINGER: We’re only five minutes into the meeting! Do you want to comment on the art in this room too?

[Page 05]


MR. HABIB: If we pursue the objective and the interest that I defined, then what we do is take a look at the present situation. And what I’ve been trying to do is to take a look and where we want to be in regard to our own interest and that definition of our objective in some foreseeable period. And I would define a “foreseeable period” in Korea as not more than about two or three years, very frankly. I think if you start looking much beyond that you come into such a degree of uncertainty that for planning purposes you begin to lose sight of what you can do to affect your own interests and your own objectives.

Now, in terms of that objective then and in terms of the foreseeable future — and I defined it — I think that it’s rather serious that at this very time we should be examining our policy toward Korea and what we might or might not wish to change. I think there’s no question that there are certain issues in which if we could get, some guidance from you, Mr. Secretary, and from the others around here, it would help me tremendously in my daily dealings with the Koreans. And it would help the people who send me instructions from time to time, when they dare to keep [Page 06] those instructions within a consciously devised framework that fulfills the objectives we set out.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: They haven’t sent the instructions because of the reaction they might get?

MR. HABIB: Sometimes!


Also, sometimes, because they know I know better than they do about the situation and, unless I tell them they better do something about the situation, they might as well forget about it. It’s been successful!


My eminent predecessor operated under the same privileges, and I considered them a privilege. It’s a privilege that most Ambassadors should have.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: To disregard instructions?


MR. HABIB: I think we’ve been successful in Korea because we haven’t tried to run the show from a distance and to manipulate it an a daily basis. But what we want is some guidelines. That we do need from Washington. And there are certain issues right now, at this time.

[Page 07]

SECRETARY KISSINGER: What — to enable you to do what you’ve decided?


MR. HABIB: To provide the framework in which all the elements of the United States Government and all agencies would operate in some cohesive fashion. And the issues which I think that our discussion should settle today would be the question of the relationship between North and South Korea — what that might or might not be — the question of our own involvement in Korea, a question which I think we’ve bust taken for granted over the last 20 years; it’s been working pretty well, so why not just keep on working the same way, or has the time come to re-think it? — the resources we devote, the manner and the disposition in which we support our commitments to Korea.

I think we’d also like some guidance on — and we should have some discussion on — the question of the possibility of arrangements or understandings or dealings between the major powers affecting Korea and the manner in which they would suit our own interests and our objectives, as we pursue them on even a larger screen than just the bilateral Korean-American screen.

[Page 08]

And then, finally, I think the time has come again — as it comes every few years for us in Korea to take a look at the internal political situation in Korea as it affects our interests and our commitments and determine again what our reaction should be to that internal situation.

The reason I think it’s important right now to take another look at it is because the authoritarian nature of the Korean Government has now been expanded, strengthened, and has reached a stage where it is generating a degree of opposition within Korea which is serious.

There’s always been a Korea of opposition; there’s always been an authoritarian government; there’s always been a degree of oppression. But the situation is now reaching a stage where I think it is serious from the standpoint of our own interests.

I’m not thinking of it simply from the standpoint of whether or not the Koreans have individual freedom of liberty or not. I’m thinking in terms of if the political situation in Korea deteriorates and continues to move in the direction in which it has been moving in the last year or so — which is increasingly [Page 09] authoritarian, increasingly oppressive, and generating a greater degree of opposition in Korea to the government than has been true for, I would say, a minimum of eight years, and closer to 10 years. Pak faces a serious problem of maintaining power, and that affects our interests because if you get political instability you can logically presume the possibility of North Korean adventurism and you can largely perceive the possibility of internal disarray in such a manner as it affects the military structure — which even overrides on to our own force presence and our own disposition — although I don’t think it could get that far.

Those are the questions, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: What threatens this authority — civil unrest?

MR. HABIB: Yes, civil unrest.

What Pak did is he took an already strong government in which his power was relatively unchallenged and assured his continuation in power for an indefinite period of time. That’s the first thing. He removed the possibility of change. Previously, he had to be elected and there was a limit on the number of times he could be elected. He’s removed that.

[Page 10]

Secondly, he’s reduced the opportunities for dissent so that there is no way of opposing policy.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: But why did he do it?

MR. HABIB: He did it in part because he himself believes that he’s coming into a difficult period in which he must have a tight control on the society and because he wants to deal with the North; he’s got the uncertainties of what the big powers are doing around him. He logically perceives a difficult period for the country. So he decides he has to take the reins in close control himself because only he himself knows what to do. But, secondly, he did it because he was running out of time. Under the old constitution he would no longer be President from ’75 on, so he had to make his move early to assure his own succession.

The opposition that has developed in Korea is an intellectually based opposition with a strong thrusting point in the student body, with a minor assist from the legitimate political opposition.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Yes, but students have no staying power.

MR. HABIB: Students have mass capability.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: In any one crisis.

[Page 11]

MR. HABIB: In Korea, the student mass capability is exercised not only in any one crisis but over a period of time, and it’s built up over a period of time. For example, it has not yet occurred in the current crisis. All you’ve had, despite the way the American newspaper correspondents write it, is the first murmuring of mass demonstrations. You’ve never had more than a thousand students on the streets last fall, and they really got on the streets only twice. Usually they were confined on the campus. But even that forced them to close the universities and led to the current imposition of a degree of martial — it’s not martial law but a degree of martial control, which is beyond anything they’ve had previously. There are the military and the students that form a mass base sufficient to create problems for the government; and what’s happening is with the decline of political activity as an outlet for dissent or the disposition to oppose, you’ve got only one thing — and that is a mass movement. So you’re beginning to get an alignment between the intellectuals, the Christian social action groups — very important, very significant — partly because of the way it affects us because their relationship to the American Christian church is very strong. And I think you’ll discover, as we were [Page 12] predicting and as Don got his first telegram today from the — what? — Methodist Society — or from somewhere in the United States. You get Christian pressure, the Christian social activists and the students, as a mass force in attempting to bring about a change in the Pak government.

Pak recognizes the threat is to his continuation in power. That’s why the situation is as serious, and that’s why it affects us. If it weren’t so serious it wouldn’t affect us and it wouldn’t affect the basic commitment.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Well, as long as we’re on that, what should we do?

MR. HABIB: Well, the line we’ve taken so far, of course, is publicly we’ve said nothing to condemn. Privately, it has generally been the line to counsel moderation. Everybody does. You yourself instinctively would counsel moderation when a subject comes up.


MR. HABIB: What?

SECRETARY KISSINGER: I’m not so sure I would.

MR. HABIB: I’m sure you would. If you’re [Page 13] involved, your intention would lead you to that.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: I might decide to counsel nothing. It’s a hard thing for us to do.

MR. HABIB: We have, in effect, counseled nothing while counseling moderation —


— because counseling moderation — that’s what we mean. Now, why have we done it? It’s not been unconscious. (A) — because I think it’s important that we maintain a degree of — not aloofness, but at least separation — that we not be part of the process of oppression.

I think it’s very important because if anything happens to overturn it, we still have our interests and we still have our commitments in the area; we still have our general desires in the area. Therefore, I think we’ve got to maintain a certain degree of objectivity or aloofness from it.

Secondly, I think what I don’t want to see happen is where issues opposing the government in Korea become issues of being anti-American. We’ve not had that problem in Korea. I don’t foresee that we will get it. The opposition is not anti-American. The opposition doesn’t call [Page 14] for a reduction of United States commitment, presence, influence in Korea. They call for a reduction of Japanese influence, Japanese presence — but not American.

Now, I think also what we should do when the situation gets individually serious — and as it may — then I think there are things we can do quietly to moderate it.

For example, I think Kim Tae Jung was not killed partly because of the reaction of the United States and the reaction of Japan. I think Kim Tae Jung was released partly because of it. I think that was wise. I think Christian ministers have not been persecuted because of the reaction of the United States. You get to a point where the United States has to be true to something.

Now, that doesn’t mean we involve ourselves in seeing that it’s brought about in that country. But when faced with the reality of oppression, I think the United States has to make clear that it’s not on the side of oppression — that it doesn’t condone. In a place like Korea, where we have 42,000 troops, and where we’ve put almost 11 billion dollars in almost 11 years, we’re still putting substantial numbers in. The line where [Page 15] you have to walk so as not to become a part of an oppressive mechanism is as important as being able to say that you’re not involving yourselves in the internal affairs of another country.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: I would think this: First, in general, I’ve tried to abolish the political science department in the State Department which tries to restructure the domestic situation of other countries — especially allies — because either we’re involved because we have American foreign-policy interests or we shouldn’t be involved at all. I don’t think it is worth our investment to democratize Korea or Turkey — where we’ve recently, also, given political advice — and so forth.

MR. HABIB: We can’t.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: So, to my mind, the basic objective — the basic need — is to determine what is our interest in Korea.

MR. HABIB: All right.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Part of it — partly it’s produced by history; partly it’s produced by security considerations.

Now, can we be part of a repressive situation? Quite clearly, we shouldn’t join in the repression. That I [Page 16] have no trouble with.

Beyond that, it would seem to me we have to make an analysis of the consequences of governmental change as against the consequences of the continuation of the government before we can make a realistic judgment as to what we should do in terms of a domestic situation.

Another problem is that it’s one thing for us to take a posture that we’re not involved in the repression. It’s another thing for all our people to run loose there, conveying an attitude of disapproval. I’m not saying they’re doing that.

MR. HABIB: They’re not, I can assure you.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: So before I could be clear in my own mind about whether we should disassociate it to what extent — I’d have to understand what it is we’re trying to accomplish.

MR. HABIB: All right. That’s exactly the way I think we’ve been approaching it — in precisely those terms.

Let’s take a look first at what would be the consequences of change. I don’t think, as I hinted earlier, that the consequences of change would be disastrous to our basic purposes if they were to occur by virtue of internal [Page 17] Korean forces alone — in other words, if the students got enough on the streets that the power of play was such that the government had to change — which is not to be discounted as a possibility. Now, that’s the first time in years —


MR. HABIB: Intellectual leadership of a long-standing political role and ethic.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: What sort of government would they form?

MR. HABIB: For example, Don just mentioned — let me just point out that, for example, they’ve been running a signature campaign to get a million signatures calling for a return to the original constitution. Nobody knows how many they actually got; they claim they got a half million. But if you look at some of the people who were associated, you find very respectable people of all ilks.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: But can they govern?

MR. HABIB: Now, nobody can govern unless they bring together the power of forces. They’ve got to get the military support; otherwise you get guys on horseback in and out. We’ve had enough experience with that situation in [Page 18] other places. In my opinion, you can still get constitutional change.

In many ways it’s unfortunate Pak moved the way he has in recent years, because he was the one man who could have assured constitutional change in a most stable fashion. He probably still could if he had to — maybe not.

What would you get? I don’t know for sure what you’d get if you didn’t get constitutional changed. If you didn’t get constitutional change, you’d probably get something in which your former student, the Prime Minister, might appear as the leader with a military backing — and with a willingness of the intellectual minority — to see what he could do. That would be the best possible alternative that I could see at the moment.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: But my estimate of my former student is that his degree of moral sensitivity is no greater than that of the incumbent.

MR. HABIB: Whether it was the effect of having sat at your feet or the effect of exile in contemplation of his navel for a while, he’s matured substantially and he’s developed some sense of ability — some ability if not sense — of how to meet those individual requirements [Page 19] of an intellectual opposition which his mentor has not developed. His mentor’s reaction to the intellectual is: “Hit him on the head with a club.” Your student’s reaction is: “Well, I’ll talk to him before I hit him on the head with a club.”


Now, there’s a big difference. As a matter of fact, the intellectual opposition has made it quite clear that your former student is not quite in the same camp as the others as they look upon him differently. I think they may be hedging.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Yes, but one has to look at the evolution of where we started by such a process.

MR. HABIB: Yes. The evolution is not good if we started by such a process. That’s why I said sometime we have to take a look at the internal political situation — and I haven’t finished: What do we do about it? One of the things we should do about it, and begin to seriously contemplate, is the reduction of our involvement. I think that we’re over involved for the needs of our own interests. And if we are so over involved, we then are automatically drawn into these damn political machinations; we’re automatically drawn into a whole wide range of things [Page 20] which could happen in Korea which should not be so automatic.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Now, what do you mean by “automatic?”

MR. HABIB: I think that involves forces — the disposition of those forces — and the relationship that we enjoy with the Koreans as a result of our military and economic involvement.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: So you think we have too many forces?

MR. HABIB: Do I think we have too many in Korea? Yes.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: How many do you think we should have?

MR. HABIB: I wouldn’t approach the question this way: I would give you my judgment. And I think I’ve persuaded the drafters of these papers to include it this way: I would say, for the time being — for FY 75 — I would say we have no plans for changing our forces. But I would then put our military minds to work — first, to determine what kind of military disposition is required in Korea for the achievement of our military objectives in Korea.

Now, I have some ideas, but I’d hesitate to state [Page 21] them because I’m not competent to state them. In the first place, I don’t think you ought to look at military disposition just strictly from the standpoint of Korea. I think you ought to look at it from the standpoint of disposition of forces elsewhere in the world and how it fits in with what you’re trying to do generally.

Secondly, I’d try to see how and when you play that card.


MR. HABIB: The reduction of forces, whether it’s not a chip in the sense of getting it.


MR. HABIB: And from whom — right.

Then I would decide what kind of disposition and what remaining forces you might decide to have and where would you put them — what kind of command relationships should you have that might be different from the existing command relationships which have nominal operation control of all forces.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Well, let’s just take an off number. We’ve now got 40,000.

MR. HABIB: 42,000.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: 42,000. Supposing we cut it [Page 22] to 20-. That’s a sizable chunk.

MR. HABIB: Yes. Over what period of time?


MR. HABIB: Beginning in a year’s time — that’s conceivable, yes.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Let me ask, because this isn’t the figure I thought about — I’m just picking a big figure: Will that reduce our involvement in the political situation?

MR. HABIB: Yes, because if you do the next thing I said — take a look at the nature of your disposition of forces — you have to decide what it is. For example, the reason I said that’s conceivable is because if you went that far you would automatically consider the reduction of ground forces. I would probably, on the basis of my present thinking, and until I get better judgment, think in terms of our interest in the commitment, the deterrent capability and so on. I would be most reluctant to reduce the air forces. We have about 9,000 in the air force now. We have one full division — about 15-, 17,000; it depends upon how you count it. We have a missile command. Then we have all these ancillary units, and then we’ve got headquarters on top of headquarters — all sorts of them.

[Page 23]

MR. SONNENFELDT: How destabilizing domestically would it be to cut forces?

MR. HABIB: In the first place, the answer to that is the Koreans, including President Pak, have already assumed that we are going to reduce forces beginning about ’75. And they have not only assumed it; they have made statements publicly.

Secondly it depends on how you do it and when you do it. If we were to do it, it would raise holy hob. That’s why I’m not in favor of doing it. As a matter of fact, I would be in favor of not doing it for about a period of one year, after we talk to them and make the necessary adjustments with them.

We can now see, on the basis of the money we got this year out of Congress, the possibility that we can fundamentally meet, substantially meet, the commitment that we made on modernization with some stretch-out. If we get any luck with the Congress next year, the year after that, I think we could — probably with a stretch-out — substantially meet the commitment that the President feels he promised and which he has repeated to President Pak. We could meet that by about’77.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: He feels that because he made [Page 24] the promise.

MR. HABIB: Yes. I say that — nobody argues that, Mr. Secretary. That’s why I keep thinking: “How do we meet it?” — not “How do we get away from it?”

MR. S. WEISS: Let me make one comment on Phil’s presentation, something we’ve talked about on a number of occasions — that is, I myself feel we’re in a very tricky situation in terms of the vulnerability of our interests there, and that will really increase as those forces go down. In other words, there’s going to be a real tricky period because as long as you’ve got U.S. forces — and nuclear forces — one of the very few places where we do have them on foreign soil — if there should be a conflagration and you’ve got a lot of irrationality on that side of that border, you know, your question of can we reduce our involvement in terms of the political scene is obviously a pertinent one. I’m even more concerned whether that wouldn’t gloss into a kind of conflagration that we really don’t want to get into or might not as we get down the line. It might have these implications. In the first place, it might involve a redeployment of the forces which I know Phil has talked about.

MR. HABIB: We’ve got 500 yards on the line. That’s [Page 25] easy to take care of. I think they’re badly disposed, but I’m not a strategist and a tactician. I don’t know whether you should have a battalion here or a battalion there. It looks lousy from my lieutenant’s point of view. And I’ve talked to a few generals who think it looks lousy too.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Well, why don’t they change it?

MR. HABIB: Well, they have vested interests.

MR. S. WEISS: First, you have to talk about nuclear weapons —

MR. HABIB: No question about it.

MR. S. WEISS: — and, secondly, you have to talk to the Japanese, because you have this problem of constantly reassuring them that the U.S. isn’t pulling out of this dagger-to-their-heart business that they always talk about.

MR. HABIB: It’s got to be carefully worked out over a time. All of those are simply supporting the thesis that you can’t do it suddenly. They don’t argue that you can’t do it.

MR. S. WEISS: I think the point is: Right now we are in command of those forces.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Yes, but we have to do something [Page 26] about it before the next —

MR. S. WEISS: That’s right, Mr. Secretary.

MR. LORD: On the issue of troops, you would define our major interest as reducing the tension. That gets into the North-South relationship. The question is reduction of troops — particularly, a large reduction in this period is not going to affect or upset a North-South dialogue. As you proceed reducing troops it’s how you play it.

MR. HABIB: Remember, I said how you play the chips was very important; and I think you’re right.

MR. LORD: Just like the Israelis. You manage to make concessions without undercutting their confidence.

MR. HABIB: That’s right. The internal difficulties in Korea — one of the problems they’ve created, in my opinion, is that they’ve made the North Koreans more reluctant to this North-South dialogue — at least, until they see whether or not they’re going to have a better atmosphere in the sense of a more unsettled atmosphere in the South which they can take advantage of. So what you may find is that what might have been possible a year ago is no longer possible or may not be possible for another six months or so. I think you should keep it in mind.

[Page 27]

I would say that, generally speaking, I would argue that when the North and the South begin to talk again that the questions of force disposition will have come to the discussion table sooner than later. Last year the South was unwilling to talk about those things with the North. They wanted to talk about non-political, non-military factors. But they’re going to have to talk about them. One reason they’re going to have to talk about them is because of the question of UN Command, and that element of the security package has to be dealt with this year.

Now, there is a NSSM on that, and I think the questions posed in the NSSM and the replies that I have seen that are in the draft stage address the problem very thoroughly. My only request of you, Mr. Secretary, is that when you get through with the consideration of this in the SRG that you get presumably then a NSSM; that I be given as soon as possible some guidelines for discussion immediately with Pak. I would like to be able do to that within a month — within a month — preferably within two weeks.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Where does this damn thing stand?

[Page 28]

MR. HABIB: I think there’s an SRG meeting next week, is that correct?

MR. FINN: Yes.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Are you going to be here still?

MR. HABIB: No, no. I’ve got to get back to my post. For one reason, I’m planning to leave on Sunday. I want to go around and test the water; the students come back — the main body — by the first of March. Some of them are back already.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Well, that gives you a month?

MR. HABIB: Well, it gives me two or three weeks to test the water — find out what’s going on — and talk to some Koreans.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Then you’ll decide whether to change the government!


MR. HABIB: No, no, no! I don’t know what makes you think that I want to change the government. I don’t want to change the government. I think our interests are served by a continuation of the existing institutions.

Now, I would leave that to the Koreans to change [Page 29] the institutions because, very frankly, the Koreans are embarked on a sort of — there’s an inevitable political clash in Korea, and it’s going to inevitably bring about political change in one way or another. In my opinion, it’s that serious that the lines are sharply drawn.

Now, Pak has behind him the power of the military, and he intends to exercise it. But there are limits to the use of the power of the military in a country like Korea.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Why in a country like Korea? It’s particularly suited for it?

MR. HABIB: Because of the character of the people — their past experience, because of their exposure — and partly because of their relationship —

SECRETARY KISSINGER: But you can’t run a country after a student.

MR. HABIB: Nobody did. And the military, by the say, stepped aside and didn’t fire on Pak students at that time — something which most people in Korea predict now.

My prediction is: If the students did, the regular army would balk.

MR. PORTER: What do you want to say about this [Page 30] now?

MR. HABIB: First of all, I want to talk about this question of the shifting security pattern which we have to have in Korea. I think we have to talk about what we do about the command of the UN. These are our interests that I want to talk to them about.

For example, I don’t think we can go to the UN again and fight this futile fight.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: We have a commitment to the Chinese, more or less, to have an idea in the UN.

MR. HABIB: Not only that but, as I recall, you have a signal from Pak to “Please tell them how you would like to do it with the Chinese” and “Would you please do it with the Chinese?”

That’s what I’d Like to be able to talk to them about.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: But what do we have on that?

MR. HABIB: Well, the paper that we have I think spells that out. It presents the alternatives.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: O.K. Then we don’t have to deal with the UN. We’ve dealt with the security situation.

MR. HABIB: I hope I’ve gotten a commitment out of [Page 31] you that you’ll get me the instructions sooner than later on that question because I think we have to move on it in some reasonable period of time. Otherwise, we’ll get preempted, if we get close to the summer, and we’ll get resolutions we have to present.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: You should see, Phil, if they got him on drugs — right?


MR. HABIB: Well, I say this for the staff, because I figure you’re not going to be the one to push the papers here. But it is important to get that done.


MR. HABIB: On the UN Command.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: I agree. You have to get instructions fast, because we have to start moving on it.

There’s no reason why we can’t do it after the SRG meeting. Why don’t you stay for the SRG meeting?

MR. HABIB: Because I’ve been away. I think the papers present the issues.

I have no question on where you’re going to come down on that one. You’re going to come on the side of the angels, as always, and I think we’ll just move ahead.

[Page 32]

The only thing I ask is: Don’t come down exactly on one line. “This is the way it’s going to be.” Leave a little flexibility for this reason: because I’ll get that flexibility from Pak; and that will allow you, when you talk to the Chinese, to maneuver a little bit — a combination of agreements and understandings and what have you. If I go to Pak with something too positive, then he’ll think that’s what we’re going to get for him. To give you an example, I wouldn’t say, “The succession to the armistice agreement has to be an agreement which involves South Korea, North Korea, the United States and the PRC.” I think it has to involve North Korea and South Korea, but whether it has to involve us directly or indirectly or whether there’s kind of a vague UN residual role — I think these things have to be left a little bit for maneuverability. And I think that’s written into the paper in the present draft that I’ve seen.

MR. PORTER: Do you think you can go through this present exercise with Pak, Phil, and cause him not to be more repressive as a result of fears that would arise in his mind? He’s a very suspicious man.

MR. HABIB: No: I would say to him “This is in [Page 33] response to the point you raise with us as to the needs” — because when the Secretary saw Pak, Pak took the initiative with him to say, “We’ve got to change our ways.” so it isn’t as if we’re saying to Pak: “We’re going to present you something unpalatable.” On the contrary, we saw something from his own Ambassador to the UN just yesterday in which the guy lays out the alternatives just the way we do.

MR. PORTER: Well, you’re the judge of that. I’m just asking you.

MR. HABIB: No. My feeling is he would not consider it disquieting and he would not consider it something that creates uncertainty. On the contrary, I think, he would consider it as something that would strengthen his position, because it’s going to remove the possibility of a defeat in the UN which would be disturbing to him.

MR. RANARD: Koreans are talking, Phil, about alternative arrangements.

MR. HABIB: There’s no question that that’s what they want. They believe it’s their idea — as Don says — which is the best way to have it.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: So on security arrangements, what we need is a decision of where we want to go — not the [Page 34] UN Command that’s in the mill.

MR. LORD: There’s a broadness of one Korean policy that’s in this system now.


MR. LORD: Where is that, Dick?

MR. FINN: I thought that was NSSM 154.

MR. HABIB: That’s a repetition of outworn policy decisions that were very good when they were made, but they need to be reviewed. For example, I don’t accept the conclusion that, you know, we don’t have to think about the question of force levels for the time being.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: I want to think about the question of force levels.

MR. HABIB: I might say, from what I understand — from my own, sort of, private sources — the wise heads in the army are thinking of the same thing.


MR. HABIB: Our army. The wise heads are beginning to think about the same thing because they look at those things over there. They realize it’s over headquarters, over generals.

For example, I had a conversation with General Abrams, because Freddy Weyand had told me that Abrams was [Page 35] impressed with the fact that they had too many goddamn headquarters and too many goddamn generals and they didn’t know what the hell they were doing in Korea. And he was right. Freddy Weyand told me that at dinner. And I nabbed Abe last night and he said, “I understand you’re thinking of the force levels.”

He’s thinking about it over the whole world. He’s got a team out there right now looking at the question of force levels and disposition. And he said to me last night: “Now, don’t come to any conclusions without consulting me.” And he promised me, when he gets some conclusions, he’ll send them to Stillwell and Stillwell will be instructed to show them to me for political input.


MR. HABIB: Stillwell is Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Forces in Korea.


Have we got a NSSM out on this, Win?

MR. LORD: Well, the paper is finished now. You think it doesn’t help?

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Look, I want an examination of the strategy on the Korean Peninsula over a five-year [Page 36] period. Can you get that done, Larry, with Brent?


SECRETARY KISSINGER: I mean that’s the only way we’re going to get the force disposition settled.

MR. HABIB: I say three to five years. Don’t go beyond that, you know. I think all of that has been done, but it’s in pieces.

MR. LORD: I think the initiative has been studied to death over years.

MR. HABIB: You don’t need a major study; you need a synthesis. This paper (indicating) begins to touch some of the fundamentals.


HABIB: This paper which was the basis for discussion today — because it raises the issues. All the issues are in there. It’s a good paper. You don’t need force levels in Korea.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: We need a discussion on it though, and that’s included in the SRG meeting next week. I want, you know — let’s have a briefing on what their plans are and what the strategic choices are. They can put that together fairly quickly. All right?

Now, on North-South contacts, unfortunately I have [Page 37] a bunch of NATO Ambassadors coming in, and I have to call Waldheim.

MR. HABIB: Well, I’ve had more time than I thought we’d have here today, and we’ve got a number of decisions.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Did I make a decision?

MR. HABIB: You made a number of them!


I’ll go back and, if I have any more to say, I’ll send it in cables.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: North-South — speak for four or five minutes on the North-South.

MR. HABIB: Yes. I think we’re in the doldrums on the North-South, Mr. Secretary. And whatever discussion of possible moves, as far as we’re concerned, with the North that are in this paper — I have no objection that they be considered, but with the proviso, which is in the paper, that everything be discussed in advance with the Koreans.

Do you remember? You made a commitment to the President.


MR. HABIB: That’s right. He knows it. He trusts [Page 38] us. The trouble is: Right now, dialogue between the South and the North is stymied. And, in my opinion, it’s going to take a little while for it to open up. Partly because of the situation in the South, it’s just too natural for the North to want to sit back and see what kind of trouble is going to develop.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Is there any American interest to speed up relations with North Korea?

MR. HABIB: The basic American interest in getting whatever degree of accommodation that develops at a natural Korean pace between North and South — because that, in itself —

SECRETARY KISSINGER: That’s different. The North Koreans can deal with us, but they have lesser incentive to deal with the South.

MR. HABIB: There is no incentive for us to deal with the North Koreans at this time, in my opinion. To assist the South Koreans, as they move in the general direction of trying to entice them, it’s in our interest —


MR. HABIB: Well, certainly I think we ought to carry on what they asked us to do. Whenever we talk to the Communists and they talk about their relations [Page 39] with North Korea, we talk with them about South Korea. I don’t see why we don’t talk to them as other countries begin relations with North Korea they don’t become too excited about it.

Now, the Australians might delay for a month or two and that will resolve the question, but we shouldn’t let too excited about it. Let the Australians play around a little bit if they want to. I don’t see that opposed to our long-term interests.

MR. PORTER: But you’re advocating it as a long-term approach.

MR. HABIB: No. I’m not stating it as long as there’s the proviso that nothing is done because we want to do it — because these are the sorts of things we talk to the North Koreans about.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: But why talk to them about it?

MR. HABIB: Because it’s worthwhile to talk to the South Koreans long in advance when you’re planning to do anything.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: But when are you going to plan on doing it?

MR. HABIB: Well, I think we might eventually plan [Page 40] on doing it.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: If you start talking to them now, we get the disadvantage of the conversation without the advantage of the action.

MR. HABIB: Talking to whom?

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Talking to the South Koreans about what we might do with the North Koreans.

MR. HABIB: No. I put it another way: You get the advantage of not having to act. And, at the same time, you get the advantage —

SECRETARY KISSINGER: There’s no pressure on us to act. .

MR. HABIB: No, there isn’t. It’s true; there is no pressure on us to act. But when you consider what it is that you might want to do in the area of fostering the accommodation, you automatically have to consider these things and you’ll say, “Well, that’s just a bureaucratic exercise.”

Maybe it’s just a bureaucratic exercise.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: I have an aversion to palaver just for palaver if we are not planning to talk to the South Koreans.

MR. HABIB: They talk about dealing with everybody. [Page 41] The South Koreans talk with us about the North Koreans.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: But we can go as far with the North Koreans as the South Koreans have gone. We can go as far with the North Koreans as other Communist countries have gone with the South Koreans.

MR. HABIB: Major Communist countries.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Major Communist countries have gone with the South Koreans.

MR. HABIB: Right.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: If the Soviet Union and the PRC are prepared to form whatever relations they might with the South, we can follow their route in the North; and we can use relations with the North, in fact, as an incentive to get the PRC and the Soviet Union engaged with the South.

MR. HABIB: Right — provided that you don’t say you’re going to take the lead because you hope then that it will stimulate action. I don’t believe in that; I don’t believe in that —


MR. HABIB: — especially when you’re dealing with the North Koreans.

MR. RANARD: Mr. Secretary, in half a dozen matterrs [Page 42] already, the Soviets have shown an interest in the (North) South Koreans.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: I’m strongly in favor of that.

MR. RANARD: Now, we’re at this moment being asked by the University of Hawaii whether we would approve of five North Korean scholars coming there for a seminar lasting a week, in which they would discuss with them North Korean economy.

MR. HABIB: You got a couple of South Korean guys in Moscow last year. They didn’t do much, but they got there. The ROK may say, “Not right now” because he doesn’t want it right now. I would say, “Fine. O.K.”

You see, we’re under no pressure. That’s the beauty of being under no pressure. .

SECRETARY KISSINGER: It depends upon how you put it to them.

MR. HABIB: Well, most forcefully, most brilliantly, most persuasively! What other way would I put it to them?

SECRETARY KISSINGER: I would lean in the direction that if the North Koreans want something from us, let them pay something first. If they let South Koreans into North Korea, then —

MR. HABIB: No, but they let Americans into North [Page 43] Korea. That’s not the same thing you’re bargaining for. You see, they’ve already let some South Koreans into the Soviet Union for the first time.

MR. SNEIDER: But it’s not clear in this instance that the North Koreans want to come to Hawaii.

MR. HABIB: Yes, it is clear. There’s been some contact that the North Koreans might welcome the invitation.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: What the North Koreans might undoubtedly want to do is get into positions similar to that of the Chinese, in which we then begin losing interests in the South Koreans — and that’s a far goal. To the extent that the North Koreans are interested and have a contact with us, we ought to use them to encourage their patrons to have contact with the South Koreans.

MR. HABIB: The North Koreans would love to have contact with either the South Koreans or the Russians or any other Eastern European country. As a matter of fact, they’re seeking it on their own at all times.

MR. FINN: Mr. Secretary, isn’t there a category in here that’s slightly different though — trying to get North Korea more opened up, or to recognize a two-Korea [Page 44] policy — to get them into the international organization activity, for example — the idea being that if North Korea accepts the existence of South Korea, accepts a two-Korea policy, this will have a benefit ultimately of reducing tensions and reducing pressure from the North on the South?

That is a direct gain, I think, for us.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: I must leave. I must make the phone call before we have that meeting with the NATO Ambassadors — whose feelings get hurt easily.

Are you going to come to this (addressing Mr. Rush).

MR. RUSH: Yes, I will.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Win, could you take this section of the North-South paper — which is more or less now a list of things which we can do — and relate it to what we ought to try to accomplish?

MR. LORD: Yes.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: One, in relation to North-South Korea contacts. But, most importantly, in relation to U.S.-North Korean contacts. And take these various categories.

MR. HABIB: I’m not much in favor of UN North-South Korean contact at this time.

[Page 45]

SECRETARY KISSINGER: You’re not in favor of it, on the one hand, but that we don’t do so many unofficial ones that it amounts to the same thing.

I have no great difficulty, in my own mind, right now on how to assess those five professors that you want to have in Hawaii. I’m just not clear — can we do that fairly soon?

MR. LORD: Yes.


MR. HABIB: Well, I’m going to leave on Sunday — if I have your permission.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: I’m not committing myself!


(Whereupon, at 3:58 p.m., the meeting was concluded.)

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Transcripts of Secretary of State Kissinger’s Staff Meetings, 1973–1977, Entry 5177, Box 2. Secret; Nodis. In telegram 22538 to Seoul, February 2, Hummel informed Habib, “The Secretary has asked that we reiterate to you his disinclination to have us pressing the Koreans, either privately or publicly, on their domestic situation. You will recall his remarks on this subject during the discussion at your meeting January 25. This reiteration stems from that discussion, rather than from any new developments; we have not seen evidence of such pressing in your recent reporting.” (Ibid, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 544, Country Files, Far East, Korea, Volume 7, November 1973–)
  2. Habib and Kissinger led a discussion of U.S. policy toward the Korean peninsula.