279. Memorandum From Thomas J. Barnes of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft), Washington, May 19, 1976.1 2



May 19, 1976


SUBJECT: State Recommendation on Suspension of NSSM 226


Philip Habib, in his capacity as Chairman of the East Asian Interdepartmental Group, has written you a memorandum (Tab C) suggesting that NSSM 226, “U.S. Security Policy Toward the Korean Peninsula,” (Tab D) be suspended for the present with a view toward reinstating the study later in the year. Habib had discussed this issue earlier with Mr. Hyland by phone. Following the negative decisions on the withdrawal of the U.S. unit in the DMZ [text not declassified] Habib apparently felt that the White House would also prefer to delay-decisions on the issues that NSSM 226 posed. Morton Abramowitz, in DOD/ISA, strongly supports Habib’s recommendation.


We originally issued NSSM 226 in May 1975 but delayed action pending the broad review of U.S. interests and security objectives in the Asia-Pacific area. On April 19, 1976, with your approval, we called for a resumption of work on NSSM 226 with a focus on the following specific issues: (Tab E)

  • — The level of U.S. military presence in Korea.
  • — The level of U.S. military assistance to the ROK.
  • — U.S. policy on ROK military self-sufficiency, including advance weapons and technology transfers.
  • — Operational control of U.S., Korean, and other U.N. forces, to include alternatives to the present U.N. Command structure.
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The working group has held one meeting, and drafting has begun on the text and the annexes. In deciding whether to approve Habib’s recommendation for another suspension, you should consider the following factors:

  • — The first two issues involve long-term policy; decisions on either would not be manifest for some time.
  • — There could be leaks regarding the existence of the renewed study as there were last summer following initial work on the original NSSM.
  • — The question of advance weapons and technology transfers could be handled on a case-by-case basis, although a general policy guideline would be more helpful.
  • — The question of OPCON and alternatives to the present UNC structure could also be handled separately as an inter-agency project.


We offer four basic options:

  • Option A. Accept Habib’s recommendations that we suspend work on the NSSM and plan to resume it in the fall.
  • Option B. Cancel the NSSM and plan to issue a new NSSM later in the year.
  • Option C. Direct the Inter-departmental group for East Asia to proceed with the study providing a mid-July date for completion, and plan for issuance of the NSDM sometime in the fall.
  • Option D. Exclude the first two issues that involve long-term policy, and restrict the NSSM to the questions of advance weapons and technology transfers, and OPCON alternatives.

My View

Since we can delay issuance of the NSDM until a more propitious time and the implementation of any decision on U.S. military presence and assistance to South Korea would be long-term, I believe that we should continue with the NSSM study but provide a new due date in mid-July. The present due date is June 10.

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Another long delay or cancellation would compromise the credibility of the NSSM system. In addition, on the questions of weapons and technology transfer and OPCON, I believe we need thorough studies, that we could best obtain in a NSSM format.


That you approve Option C and the proposed memorandum at Tab A to Habib turning down his suggestion for a postponement but extending the due date to July 15.


Alternatively, that you approve Option D and the memorandum at Tab B directing that NSSM 226 focus only on the question of weapons and technology transfer and OPCON.


Or that you approve either Options A or B and authorize us to informally inform the departments concerned. 11

Approve Option A (suspend the NSSM) [initialed]
Approve Option B (cancel the NSSM)

Col. Granger concurs.

  1. Source: Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–36, NSSM 226, Review of U.S. Policy Toward the Korean Peninsula. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for Action. The tabs are attached but not published. On the first page of the memorandum, Scowcroft wrote, “a mistake” next to the passage: “We originally issued NSSM 226 in May 1975 but delayed action pending the broad review of U.S. interests and security objectives in the Asia-Pacific area.” On the third page, Scowcroft underlined, “informally inform the departments concerned” and initialed his approval of option A. He also wrote, “Our basic mistake was stopping work on the NSSM last spring when we could have used it.”
  2. Barnes asked Scowcroft to decide the future of the NSSM 226 study.