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Historical documents

165 Shaw to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 67[1] , TOKYO, 17 February 1949, 12 noon


Sub-Committee one interviewed Syngman Rhee and his Cabinet Friday to ask his suggestions for Commission to contact the North. The President made it clear that he expected the only approach of Commission to be through Soviet Russia. This would be rebuffed but record would then be straight in the eyes of the world. He again spoke of his own troops marching north to solve the unification problem themselves. Rhee believed that the Commission should not contact Korean leaders other than from the Government. By meeting independent Koreans he said that we should encourage subversive elements and produce unrest. Last year the Commission had done harm by sponsoring the visit to North Korea of leaders from the South and the people would be disturbed if they thought that we had the same intention. He said that Kim Koo and Kimm Kiu-sik[2] were finished.

2. The Korean Minister of Commerce said that all trade between the North and South had been suspended. They could not trust the North who did not keep contracts and who only wanted funds for subversion in the South. The impression of the Sub-Committee was that all efforts to stimulate trade would be resisted strongly by the Government.

3. The Commission may have to face the situation wherein the Korean Government strongly opposes attempts at contact with the North and also contact with non-governmental leaders for the purpose of promoting democracy in the South. Rhee regards our presence as putting the seal on the legitimacy of his Government and a climax in the eyes of the Korean people. His hints at forceful action against the North repeated three times in the past week. In a public statement for Commission's mass welcome President Rhee said, 'Between democracy and communism there is no middle estuary' and that 'if war is necessary we are willing to fight for our national defence'.

4. Americans regard the purpose of the Commission as a deterrent to aggression from the North and a stabilising factor in the South. Most American military officers apparently believe civil war likely within a couple of months and opinion is evenly divided as to whether the balance of armed strength lies with the North or the South. It is believed that Army Secretary Royall instructed American forces not to become involved. American suggestion that Commission travel to the North by ship, see our telegram number 1, might be motivated by desire to put the record straight by forcing refusal to land.

5. Commission may find itself frustrated in purposes not only of eliminating barriers but of fostering democratic institutions. It will in the meantime no doubt pursue all methods of carrying out General Assembly resolution despite initial unfavourable indications but member states may have to decide whether support for Korean Government and being a stabilising influence are sufficient reasons for continued presence in Korea.[3]

[1] Sent via Tokyo, it conveyed Shaw's cablegram 3.

[2] Opposition political leaders.

[3] The following day Shaw advised that the commission had decided to ask the Soviet government to transmit to leading personalities in North Korea the commission's desire to make contact with them. If no reply was received from the Soviets the commission would seek other methods of contact.

[AA : A1838, 852/20/4, V]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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