273. Memorandum From Thomas J. Barnes of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft), Washington, September 29, 1975.1 2


September 29, 1975

SUBJECT: Secretary Schlesinger’s Discussions in Seoul

Secretary Schlesinger sent an outline through you to the President on the principal issues that he intended to discuss with the Koreans during his trip to Seoul last month (Tab C). Attached at Tab B are three memoranda reporting his conversations in Seoul with President Park and Defense Minister Suh. There is no doubt Secretary Schlesinger’s trip was highly successful in manifesting our commitment to our South Korean allies and in furthering our close alliance with Japan. On several points, however, Secretary Schlesinger went beyond the position set out in the outline. Some of his comments in Seoul also differed from the briefing papers that the Department of Defense prepared for the trip and go beyond the commitments the President made in his conversation with President Park on November 22, 1974. Secretary Schlesinger’s comments appear to preempt several basic policy issues being considered in the Korean NSSM.

One basic issue is Secretary Schlesinger’s commitment of automatic involvement by U.S. forces in the event of a North Korean attack. On this issue he went beyond any previous comment that I am aware of by high U.S. officials. Also on the question of U.S. involvement in the defense of the Northwest Islands, the Secretary initially kept to his brief but departed from it significantly later on. In a related matter, we are concerned about the manner in which General Stilwell has bored ahead without formal Washington approval with his “short-war strategy” for the defense of the ROK. In addition, Secretary Schlesinger informed the Koreans that U.S. force levels in Korea would remain unchanged for the next five years. A discussion of these points is at Tab A. I raised some of them with Mort Abramowitz and Bill Crowe on September 11.

[Page 2]

In regard to the U.S. commitments to react to a North Korean attack, Mort explained that the President reportedly instructed Secretary Schlesinger to be as positive as possible with the South Koreans. I do not know what the President said, but I wonder whether he intended Secretary Schlesinger to go as far as he did. Mort acknowledges that Secretary Schlesinger came close to committing the U.S. to defend the Northwest Islands.

There has recently been an exchange of STADIS messages with Embassy Seoul on the question of the “short-war strategy” (Tabs D and E). Ambassador Sneider notes that State officials and others have been orally briefed, and he claims, incorrectly, that the JCS has approved the plan. He maintains that the concept is only a revision of the present defense plan and therefore not new. The concept of winning the war in “nine days,” however, has serious implications. They include no planning for evacuation to the south, almost immediate U.S. air intervention, and possible use of tactical nuclear weapons.


That you discuss these points with Secretary Kissinger and the President. That you ask General Wickham for information on the status of the “short-war strategy,” as well as on DOD plans for seeking White House concurrence in any commitments that have implications for the nature of the U.S. role in the event of hostilities on the Korean Peninsula.

APPROVE [BS initialed]

Col Granger

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for East Asia and the Pacific, Box 9, Korea (12). Secret. Sent for action. The memorandum notes Granger’s concurrence, next to which is written “strongly concur.” Attached but not published are Tab A, undated comments on Schlesinger’s discussions in Seoul; Tab B, Schlesinger’s conversations with Park and Suh, which the NSC received under a covering memorandum, September 9, from Schlesinger’s Military Assistant Howard Graves to Scowcroft, and which are published as Documents 270272; Tab C, an undated outline of Schlesinger’s anticipated discussions with Park. Tabs D and E are not attached, but refer to telegram 226183 to Seoul, September 23, and telegram 7547 from Seoul, September 25, both at the National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files. In response to telegram 7547, the Department sent telegram 234236 to Seoul, October 1; ibid. Scowcroft initialed his approval of the recommendation.
  2. Barnes recommended that Scowcroft investigate Schlesinger’s discussions in Korea and the proposal for a short-war strategy.