254. Memorandum of Conversation, Washington, May 28, 1974, 2:05–3:05 p.m.1 2


In reply refer to:

SUBJECT: US Ambassador to Korea Visit with DEPSECDEF


  • State Department
  • US Ambassador to Korea - Philip C. Habib
  • Country Director for Korea - Donald L. Ranard
  • Defense Department
  • Deputy Secretary of Defense - William P. Clements, Jr.
  • Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA) - Amos A. Jordan
  • Director, Defense Security Assistance Agency - VADM Ray Peet
  • Director, East Asia Pacific Region (ISA) - RADM Thomas J. Bigley
  • Military Assistant to the DepSecDef - BGen John G. Jones
  • Assistant for Korea (ISA/EAPR) - Robert L. Vandegrift

Time: 1405-1505, Tuesday 28 May 1974
Place: Office of the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Pentagon


(S) US Force Levels in Korea

Ambassador Habib opened the discussion by stating that the ROKG had been informed that there will be no change in the level of US forces in Korea through FY75. During the following discussions, Mr. Clements made it clear that OSD and the JCS had no present plans for reducing our forces in Korea, and that any other suggestions were nothing but loose talk. It was pointed out that the ROK Government expects at least a one-year notice of any future changes in our force levels.


(S) US ROK Combined Command Replacing the UN Command

Ambassador Habib opened the discussion by saying that this subject could be handled at any time because of its bilateral US-ROK nature, and that a delay in completing the final arrangements should not adversely influence other NSDM 251 actions. It was mentioned that I Corps, Combined Command and the removal of the Company from the DMZ were presently under review by the JCS [Page 2] as a package arrangement. Ambassador Habib mentioned that he had turned down a suggestion by Foreign Minister Kim Dong-jo that a ROK officer be appointed as the senior MAC member now because it was the USG’s intention to present all of the security changes as a single package for the mutual benefit of our two countries. Concerning OPCON of the new Combined Command, Ambassador Habib recommended that DOD closely scrutinize the ROK proposal to insure that the ROKG NATO-type formalized structure would not tie DOD’s hands and reduce our security options in the future. He was informed that the JCS were now addressing this issue. Ambassador Habib said that the major problem confronting the US Government was what the North Koreans wanted to attain from the anticipated negotiations. Diplomatic initiatives on the part of the State Department are presently behind schedule but are expected to resume as soon as the Secretary of State can address the issues and proceed with contacts with the PRC and others. Ambassador Habib suggested that the PRC may again be useful in obtaining an agreement concerning the Korean question. The PRC can argue that by following their lead at the 28th UNGA last year, North Korea eliminated UNCURK and that the possibility of the elimination of the UNC itself may be a possibility in the 29th UNGA if North Korea is willing to bide its time and work with the PRC toward attaining its long-term goal. Ambassador Habib reiterated that this would not be contrary to US national interests since it would not enhance the possibilities of hostilities on the peninsula and would therefore present no loss to USG interests. In answer to Mr. Clements’ question concerning the notification of Japan, Ambassador Habib said that Japan would be informed at the appropriate time after all major arrangements had been made, primarily because the ROKG did not trust the GOJ and the Japanese press to keep it a secret.


(S) ROK Force Five-Year MOD Plan

Ambassador Habib stressed the urgent need for an immediate USG decision on the ROK MAP for FY74 in order that the ROKG can plan and budget its own resources. It was mentioned that a suggested increase of $20 million in FMS to the ROKG in FY74 would assist the Koreans. Mr. Clements reminded Ambassador Habib that the split of the MAP pie was a State decision and that he should present his arguments forcefully with the proper officials at State. Ambassador Habib explained that President Nixon felt the completion of the Modernization Program was a personal commitment to the ROKG for the close support and assistance the USG received from Korea in supplying ROK troops to assist our efforts in South Vietnam and for their immediate unquestioned response for F5As under the ENHANCE PLUS agreement. However, the situation has changed both here and in Korea and Ambassador Habib believes that new initiatives are required by the White House with Congress in order to fulfill our commitment. Discussion followed on the possibilities of a supplemental budget or special legislation for Korea in order to gain Congressional support for USG policy. It was mutually agreed that a new package must be presented, stressing FMS over grant assistance in order to quickly finish the funding of the major priority items of the MOD Plan. The White House should seek credit dollars and a Congressional commitment to complete [Page 3] the MOD Plan. It was mutually agreed that there would be insufficient funds for any future ROK O&M. Mr. Clements stated that Defense believed that an Undersecretary’s meeting to change the present policy was required as soon as possible in order to reach a decision prior to the September SCM.


(S) Security Consultative Meeting

Ambassador Habib said he believed that the MAP for FY75 would definitely be brought up by the Minister of Defense. He again stressed that large amounts of grant assistance were a fiction, stress should be placed on quickly increasing FMS and clarifying our policy and goals and then working speedily to attain them. He stated that the ROKG should be told our new policy at the SCM so that it can then take the appropriate action. It was agreed that DOD and State have long felt this was the proper way to complete the MOD Plan but that the White House had made decisions preventing speedy transition to FMS funding.


(S) ROK Domestic Situation

Ambassador Habib described the domestic Korean situation as “lousy” and politically repressive. President Pak has initiated these policies because he believes the North Korean threat requires complete unity with no dissent. The Ambassador mentioned he had advised President Pak not to execute any of the violators of the emergency measures because it would be a “stupid” step to take. He does not expect any major domestic upheaval in South Korea during the next few months. In response to Mr. Clements’ question on the ROK economy, Ambassador Habib described it as a deficit capital economy. He estimated that if there was no recession in the US, Japan, and Europe, that the Korean economy should successfully ride out the present economic crisis by maintaining its export levels and thereby its ability to maintain its industrial and defense budgets in the foreseeable future. Again in response to Mr. Clements’ question, he said that the ROK MND had given no indication that it believed the sharp cuts in the MAP were deliberate or connected with South Korean domestic policy. The ROKG fully understood the difficult funding problems we are having in Congress. Ambassador Habib did not anticipate that the presently stalled South/North negotiations would produce any concrete results until after the UNGA decision on the Korean question this fall. Regarding North Korea, Ambassador Habib stated that the Northwest Islands were a potential hotspot and he believed the recent North Koreans’ actions in this area reflected their anticipation that the UNC would eventually leave the Korean peninsula and that their recent position on territorial waters was a step toward a legal claim to the islands when the UNC is dissolved. He reminded everyone that the ROKG was increasingly taking independent actions to prepare for its own defense, and that this trend should be guided and supported by US policy.


(S) ROK-US Joint Ventures

In answer to Mr. Clements’ inquiry on joint ventures, Ambassador Habib presented a run down of US joint venture projects now underway and in the discussion stages. As a precautionary note, the Ambassador said that the ROKG was [Page 4] acquiring “big ideas” on exporting armaments t produces in the future to earn additional foreign exchange and that the USG should be aware of this possibility.

Memorandum of Conversation
Prepared by: Mr. Vandegrift

Approved by:

Distribution: SecDef (1)
DepSecDef (1)
OSD (CCS) (1)
ASD (ISA) (1)
COMUS Korea (1)
MAAG-Korea (1)
State Dept (1)
DSAA (1 )
Mil Asst, DepSecDef (1)
R&C (2)
AD (1)
OJCS (J-5)

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 330–77–0054, Korea, 333, 1974, June 20. Secret. Prepared by Vandegrift and approved by Jordan. The conversation took place in Clements’s office. Clements’s talking points for the meeting, dated May 28, are ibid.
  2. Habib briefed Clements on U.S. relations with Korea.