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The Initial Negotiations

Back to Truce Tent and Fighting Front

The Foundation of Freedom is the Courage of Ordinary People

History  Bert '53  On Line

Despite the willingness of the United Nations to bring the Korean conflict to a close by negotiations, the prospects for a peaceful settlement based on a unified, democratic, and independent Korea appeared dim in the late spring of 1951. The United Nations' efforts in the opening months of the year had been ignored by the Chinese Government at Peiping and the latter had given no indication that it was inclined to discuss a cessation of hostilities except on its own terms. Since the Peiping conditions included the withdrawal of the UNC forces from Korea, the return of Taiwan to Red China, and the seating of a Chinese Communist delegate to the United Nations, there was little chance that the United States would accept them. In the face of this stalemate, patience and continued military pressure seemed to be the most potent UNC weapon.

Preliminary Arrangements

After the Communist offensive in May had been turned back, many U.N. observers were optimistic that the Chinese might now find the cost of carrying on the war too high in casualties and equipment and be more receptive to negotiations. Trygve Lie, Secretary General of the United Nations, proffered another peace bid in early June and U.N. diplomats sought to fashion a proposal palatable to the Communists.

The first sign of a change in the Communist position came from a radio address by the Soviet representative to the United Nations on June 23. Deputy Foreign Minister Jacob Malik, speaking on the U.N. "Price of Peace" radio program, stated that the Soviet peoples believed that a peaceful settlement could be achieved in Korea. As a first step, he suggested that the belligerents could start discussing the possibilities of a cease-fire and an armistice "providing for the mutual withdrawal of forces from the 38th parallel."1 If both sides had a "sincere desire" to end the fighting in Korea, he felt that this would not be too great a price to pay for peace.2

Although the Peiping government approved Malik's suggestions several days later, it served notice that it had not given up hope of pressing its own terms. Yet despite the warning note from the Chinese Communists, initial reaction to the Soviet proposal was cautiously favorable among the United Nations. The very existence of a disposition to negotiate was a welcome sign and they awaited a further amplification of the vague references to peace and of procedures acceptable to the Communists.

It did not take long. On the 27th, Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko informed American Ambassador Alan G. Kirk in Moscow that the armistice should be negotiated by the field commanders and should be limited to strictly military questions without involving any political or territorial matters. In the meantime, Secretary of State Dean G. Acheson, appearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in support of the foreign aid bill, mentioned in passing that the U.S. military objectives in Korea would be satisfied if the Communists withdrew behind the 38th Parallel and gave adequate guarantees against a renewal of aggression .3 It is interesting to note that each side quickly used the reported statements of the opposition in arguing its own position after the negotiations began.

Whatever doubt may have existed over the authority of the Unified Command to initiate and conduct cease-fire negotiations was soon dispelled by the U.N. legal advisor, Abraham Feller. He informed Secretary General Lie that the United States had the right to conclude a ceasefire or armistice without further authorization from the United Nations as long as the negotiations were limited to military matters and the end result was reported to the Security Council.4

With the United Nations sanctioning the leadership of the United States in the discussions with the Communists, General Ridgway was instructed to broach the matter to the Commander in Chief, Communist Forces Korea.5 On 30 June, Ridgway broadcast via radio his willingness to establish a date for the first meeting and suggested to the Communist leader that a Danish hospital ship in Wonsan Harbor might be a suitable place.6

On the same day, Ridgway was advised on the general policy and objectives of the United States in negotiating a cease-fire with the Communists. These instructions provided the framework for the American position during the negotiations.7

The principal military interests of the United States were securing a cessation of hostilities, assurance against the resumption of fighting, and the protection of the security of U.N. forces. Recognizing quite clearly that the Communists might not want to reach a permanent political settlement in Korea, the U.S. political and military leaders advised Ridgway that it was essential to obtain a military agreement that would be acceptable to the United States over an extended period of time. Severely restricting the Far East commander to military matters, they cautioned him against discussing political questions and placed not only the disposition of Taiwan and the seating of Communist China in the United Nations in this category but also the 38th Parallel. These problems should be considered at the political level.

To provide flexibility in dealing with the Communists, U.S. leaders held that the U.S. negotiators could adopt initial positions more advantageous than they expected to obtain, but care must be taken that a retreat to the minimum acceptable position should remain open. They did not want the United States to be accused of bad faith in its negotiating.

As for specific details, the U.S. leaders felt that a military armistice commission with equal representation from both sides should be established. This commission should have the right of free and unlimited access to all Korea and power to carry out its task of insuring that the conditions of the armistice were met. Until the commission was prepared to function, the armistice would not become effective. On the battlefield a demilitarized zone twenty miles wide should be set up based on the positions occupied at the time the truce was signed. There would be no reinforcement of troops or augmentation of materiel and equipment except on a one-for-one replacement basis. In the matter of prisoners of war, they would be exchanged as quickly as possible on a similar basis, one for one. In the meantime, representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross should be permitted to visit all prisoner of war (POW) camps to render such assistance as they could until the arrangements were completed.8

After receiving these instructions, General Ridgway delegated the responsibility for the preparation of detailed plans and physical arrangements for the truce talks to the joint Strategic Plans and Operations Group (JSPOG), headed by Brig. Gen. Edwin K. Wright.9 Working closely with this group, Ridgway drafted an agenda and on 1 July forwarded it to the JCS, together with the names of the representatives he had selected to represent the United Nations at the conference table. To head the delegation, he had chosen Vice Adm. C. Turner Joy, Commander, Naval Forces, Far East, a tough veteran of the Pacific campaigns in World War II. Supporting joy there would be: Maj. Gen. Henry I. Hodes, Deputy Chief of Staff, Eighth Army, who had led an infantry regiment in the European war; Maj. Gen. Laurence C. Craigie, Vice Commander, Far East Air Forces, who had commanded a fighter wing in North Africa; Rear Adm. Arleigh A. Burke, Deputy Chief of Staff, Naval Forces, Far East, also known as "31-Knot" Burke because of his handling of destroyers at top speed in the Pacific war; and Maj. Gen. Paik Sun Yup, Commanding General, ROK I Corps, a young and able Korean combat commander.10

Ridgway also informed the JCS that he intended to send another message to the Communists, who had not yet answered his first broadcast, suggesting a preliminary meeting of liaison officers either at Wonsan Airfield or on the main Seoul-Kaesong highway between Kaesong and the Imjin River. The liaison officers could arrange the details of time, place, and procedures to be followed for the meeting of the chief delegates.11


Before Ridgway could send the second message, the Communists broadcast a reply. Following their customary policy of never accepting a proposal in toto, they suggested that the representatives meet at Kaesong, the old capital of Korea located just below the 38th Parallel thirty-five miles northwest of Seoul, sometime between 10 and 15 July. The United Nations commander thought Kaesong would be satisfactory, but was disturbed at an implication that the Communists believed that military operations would be suspended during the negotiations. He wanted to inform them that there would be no cessation of hostilities prior to the conclusion of the armistice. In addition, he desired to ask them to advance the first meeting so that the negotiations could get under way immediately.12

Sensitive to the propaganda potentiality of the last request, the U.S. leaders refused to allow the U.N. Command to be placed in the role of petitioner. "We must not appear eager," they told Ridgway, "to advance [the] date of meeting."

They approved his other suggestions and told him that if he had to refer to the Chinese commander, Peng Teh-huai, by title, he should designate him Commanding General, Chinese Communist Forces in Korea rather than as Commander of the Chinese Volunteers, which the Chinese preferred.13On 4 July, Kim Il Sung, as Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army, and Peng Teh-huai agreed to the preliminary meeting of the liaison officers and proposed 8 July as the date.14

Although the Communists appeared willing to initiate discussions, reports from the front indicated that they were gathering forces and supplies for another major offensive in mid-July. Air reconnaissance disclosed increased sightings of vehicular and rail traffic moving south and made Ridgway skeptical of Communist good faith in conducting armistice negotiations. To give the U.N. Command a stronger moral position in the face of the enemy troop and equipment build-up, Ridgway suggested that the deployment of a fighter-bomber wing scheduled for movement to the theater be deferred until a more opportune moment. But the U.S. leaders had already taken the propaganda aspects of the shipment into consideration and told Ridgway that a postponement now would only weaken the UNC posture.15

On 6 July, Ridgway informed his representatives of his personal views on the forthcoming negotiations. Implacable opposition to communism was the basic U.S. premise and the delegates would lead from strength not weakness in the truce conference. On the other hand, he recognized that patience would be mandatory, since lengthy and frequent propaganda speeches would be inevitable. The wisest course, he counseled, would be to ignore them. If any opportunity arose to detach Communist China from the Soviet Union bloc or to increase the tension between them without becoming involved politically, the UNC delegation should seek to exploit it.

In dealing with Orientals, the General went on, great care had to be taken not to cause them to "lose face." A "Golden Bridge" of withdrawal from a situation was of high importance to the Oriental. Since there might also be some difficulty with semantics, considering that English, Chinese, and Korean translations would be used, care would have to be taken to insure against basic and sustained misunderstandings arising from inaccuracies in translation.

Ridgway concluded by pointing out that if the negotiators could cap the military defeat of the Communists in Korea with successful and skillful handling of the armistice conversations, "history may record that Communist military aggression reached its high water mark in Korea, and that thereafter Communism itself began its recession in Asia." 16

To buttress the military members of the truce teams, General Ridgway intended to keep Ambassador John J. Muccio and U.S. Political Advisor William J. Sebald at Munsan-ni, some twenty-odd miles north of Seoul, where a tent camp had been established for the UNC negotiators. But the Army leaders in Washington reacted very strongly to the suggestion that these two well-known diplomats provide political guidance. It might give the Communists the impression that the talks would go beyond the military stage, and furthermore, because of Sebald's connection with Japanese affairs and the proposed peace treaty, the Army was very anxious not to associate the imminent Japanese treaty negotiations with the cease-fire talks. As a result, Ridgway asked Sebald to go back to Tokyo and Muccio to remain at Seoul.17

Before the truce talks opened, the U.S. leaders decided to bring Ridgway's directives up to date. They informed him that his mission as the United Nations commander was to inflict maximum personnel and materiel losses upon the enemy in Korea consistent with the security of the forces under his command. His main objective would be to attain a settlement to terminate the hostilities. Appropriate arrangements in support of this included establishing the authority of the ROK over all of Korea south of the 38th Parallel, providing for the withdrawal by stages of non-Korean troops, and permitting the building of ROK military power to deter or repel further North Korean aggression. He could carry out ground, amphibious, airborne, air, and naval operations in Korea that might support his mission, insure the safety of his command, or harass the enemy, but certain restrictions were imposed. No air or naval operations against Communist China, the USSR, the hydro- electric installations along the Yalu, or Rashin (Najin) near the Soviet border would be carried out without JCS permission. Nor could any bombing be permitted within twelve miles of the Soviet frontier. In case the Soviet Union intervened in the war, the U.N. commander was to assume the strategic defensive and report to the JCS, making preparations for the temporary withdrawal of UNC forces to Japan.

As Commander in Chief, Far East, Ridgway also had certain U.S. responsibilities. He would defend Taiwan and the Pescadores by air and naval action only and also defend Japan in the event of a Soviet attack. The same restrictions were placed upon him against attacking Chinese or Soviet territory and he was reminded that only the President had the authority to order preventive action against concentrations of forces on the Chinese mainland.18

These directives supplemented the instructions on the conduct of the armistice negotiations and together they delineated the realm of action open to Ridgway for the immediate future. Whether the restrictions laid down by the Washington leaders would be lifted or firmly adhered to would apparently depend upon Communist behavior at the negotiations.

The Measure of the Opposition

On 8 July, the UNC liaison officers, led by Col. Andrew J. Kinney, USAF, set out from Munsanni by helicopter. They landed near Kaesong, where the Communists met and escorted them to the first meeting across the conference table. Before the Communists could forestall them, the UNC liaison officers walked in and sat down facing the south, causing a great deal of agitation among their counterparts. According to oriental tradition in negotiating peace, the conquering nation faces the south and the defeated state the north.19

The initial exchange was formal and without cordiality. Refreshments were declined by the UNC party and the amenities were quickly dispensed with. As the first order of business, Kinney submitted the list of UNC delegates and requested the names of the Communist representatives. But evidently the enemy intended to look over the UNC list before they revealed their own selections, for they proposed a three-hour recess so that they could receive instructions from their superiors.

Food, liquor, and cigarettes were again offered to the liaison group at this time, but were refused. Kinney sent back to the helicopters for the lunch they had brought with them.

After the recess the Communists announced their delegation, headed by Lt. Gen. Nam Il of the Korean People's Army. The first meeting would take place on to July in Kaesong and the Communists would clear the road from the outpost of Panmunjom, some six miles east of Kaesong. UNC vehicles would be marked with white flags and the Communists would assume responsibility for the safety of UNC personnel en route and in the conference area. All members of the UNC group would wear arm brassards for identification except the delegates themselves. As for convoys moving to and from Kaesong, Kinney informed the Communists that these would be exempt from attack provided they were properly marked with white flags or squares and provided that the time and route of the convoys were communicated to the U.N. Command. Kinney later reported that the Communist attitude had been co-operative.20

The motor convoy of the UNC delegation, bearing large white flags, was halted at the outpost of Panmunjom, on the morning of the 10th, while the Communists made "preparations" for their safe conduct. When the convoy reached Kaesong, the nature of these "preparations" became apparent. Three vehicles filled with Communist officers in full dress swung in front of the line and posed as victors as the procession drove through Kaesong. Communist photographers gave full picture coverage to this parade.21

On the shoulder of a hill on the outskirts of Kaesong, the convoy stopped before a large granite mansion. This was supposed to be the UNC resthouse and consultation area, but since the UNC officers suspected that the Communists might have wired the house and might be listening in, very little serious conversation was conducted inside the building. After a brief pause, the delegates moved down the road to the conference area.

U.N. Liaison Officers Arrive Near Kaesong

Before the war the teahouse chosen by the Communists as the site of the meetings had been a fashionable restaurant that had provided music and dancing girls. Now it was bullet scarred and some of the buildings had been damaged. Armed Communists guards were everywhere as the negotiators were conducted to an inner courtyard and entered the conference room.

General Nam sat in a high chair facing south and Admiral Joy was provided a low chair on the opposite side of the table giving the Communists an advantage in the seating. Even in small things, the Communists would not allow themselves to be outdone. When the UNC delegation placed a small U.N. flag in a brass stand in front of them on the table, the Communists countered by producing a flag in a larger stand at the afternoon meeting.

In dress the contrast among the delegates was striking. Except for General Paik, who was clad in fatigues, the UNC officers wore comfortable summer tans. The Chinese wore plain, drab uniforms without insignia, but the North Koreans with high-collar dress blouses, full insignia, and high leather boots were the sartorial champions.

The leader of the Communist delegation, General Nam, had other qualifications besides his neatness and correct military bearing.. Although only in his late thirties, he was Chief of Staff of the North Korean Army and also Vice Premier of the North Korean state. Educated in Manchuria, he spoke Chinese and Russian as well as Korean.

Assisting General Nam at the conference table were Maj. Gen. Lee Sang Cho, Chief of the Reconnaissance Bureau of the North Korean Army and a former Vice Minister of Commerce; Maj. Gen. Chang Pyong San, Chief of Staff, I Corps, North Korean Army, a late addition to the Communist delegation; Lt. Gen. Teng Hua, commander of the 15th Army Group of the Chinese Communist Army, who had joined the Communist Party in 1929 and made the Long March to Yenan; and Maj. Gen. Hsieh Fang, Chief of Propaganda of Northeast Military District of China, who was reported to have played a major role in the 1936 kidnapping of Chiang Kai-shek. Communist representatives in most cases had as much political as military experience and this provided another point of difference between the two delegations, for the UNC negotiators were all professional military men.

U.N. Liaison Group and Communist Escort, Kaesong Rest House

In his opening address, Admiral Joy tried to counter this political advantage. He stated quite bluntly that the UNC representatives intended to discuss only military matters relating to Korea and would not consider political or economic subjects. Until agreement on the armistice terms was reached, he went on, and a military armistice commission was ready to function, hostilities would continue. He then presented the nine-point agenda drawn up by the U.N. Command:
1. Adoption of the agenda.
2. Location of and authority for International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) representatives to visit prisoner of war camps.
3. Limitation of discussion to purely military matters related to Korea only.
4. Cessation of hostilities and of acts of armed force in Korea under conditions that would assure against resumption of hostilities and acts of armed force in Korea;
5. Agreement on a demilitarized zone across Korea.
6. Composition, authority, and functions of a military armistice commission.
7. Agreement on principle of inspection within Korea by military observer teams, functioning under a military armistice commission.
8. Composition and functions of these teams.
9. Arrangements pertaining to prisoners of war.

Nam then proceeded to state the Communist position. Basically it called for a return to the old status quo, with both sides withdrawing to the 38th Parallel and removing all foreign troops from Korea. He proposed an immediate cease-fire and the establishment of a 20-kilometer demilitarized zone along the 38th Parallel. Once this was done, the question of prisoners of war could be discussed. The Chinese delegate, General Teng, supported Nam on each point.

But Admiral Joy refused to be led into any discussion of substantive matters at this time and asked for the Communist agenda. He pointed out that these were political subjects and outside the purview of the negotiations.

After the noon recess, restrictions placed by the Communists upon the free movement of the UNC couriers in the conference area drew a protest from Admiral Joy, He also broached the desirability of bringing twenty U.N. newsmen and photographers along with the UNC delegation to the conference area, since Communist photographers were being given full access. In reply General Nam seemed to agree that both sides should have an equal press and picture coverage of the conference, but he hedged on allowing UNC personnel freedom of movement, arguing that safety was the chief factor in imposing the restrictions. He would contact his superior, Kim Il Sung, on the question of newsmen.

In presenting the Communist agenda, Nam followed the old precept that the best defense is an offense. He attacked the UNC program as unduly long and repetitious. Since the matter of ICRC representatives visiting POW camps was connected with the over-all POW item, it should be taken up when the general problem was considered. U.N. Item 3 concerning the limitation of discussions of military matters pertaining to Korea only was unnecessary, he continued, for the meetings were confined to military matters anyway. As for Items 4 and 5, the cessation of hostilities and establishment of a demilitarized zone, they were not concrete. They should be set forth clearly and then the supplementary matters contained in the next three UNC items in regard to a military armistice commission and inspection teams could be settled. The final subject would be prisoners of war. In conclusion Nam held that the shorter five-point agenda presented by the Communists was more proper and would allow the subjects to be discussed in their correct order: 1 . Adoption of the agenda. 2. Establishment of the 38th Parallel as the military demarcation line between the two sides and establishment of a demilitarized zone, as basic conditions for the cessation of hostilities in Korea. 3. Withdrawal of all armed forces of foreign countries from Korea. 4. Concrete arrangements for the realization of cease-fire and armistice in Korea. 5. Arrangements relating to prisoners of war following the armistice.

Former Tea House, Site of the Kaesong Conferences

Acceptance of this agenda would have settled the question of the 38th Parallel and the withdrawal of foreign troops from Korea at the outset, so Admiral Joy refused to discuss any specific line of demarcation. He maintained that the U.N. Command would consider a line of demarcation and a demilitarized zone but not the 38th Parallel as the demarcation line. As for the withdrawal of foreign troops, Joy reiterated that this was a political substantive question that could be discussed after an armistice was agreed upon. The first subject to be taken up, he said, was the adoption of the agenda and this could be followed by Items 4 and 5 of the UNC proposal, the cessation of hostilities and the agreement on a demilitarized zone .23

At the close of the first meeting, the initial objectives of the Communists in the truce negotiations seemed clear- a return to the 38th Parallel and the clearing of foreign troops from Korea. Once these were attained and the balance of military power redressed in their favor, it would be possible for them to carry on the remainder of the negotiations at their own pace and inclination.

U.N. Delegates to First Armistice Session, July 1951

Battle of the Agenda

On the night of 10 July, U.N. newsmen at Munsan-ni set up a betting pool on the length of the armistice negotiations. The "pessimists" guessed that it would take six weeks .24 As it turned out, a fortnight passed before the conferees could reach agreement on the agenda alone.

The second meeting on the 11th found each side defending its own program and attacking the opposing agenda. Admiral Joy attempted to press the matter of ICRC visits to POW camps as a humanitarian measure, but Nam Il quickly picked this argument up and turned it against the U.N. Command. Since this was a meeting to consider military matters, not humanitarian, he could not see what business it had on the agenda. As long as the UNC delegation insisted on excluding nonmilitary matters, the Communists had a point.

There was no progress on other agenda items. To the Communist brief on the 38th Parallel, Admiral joy rejoined that the U.N. Command "is completely uninterested in any imaginary line across Korea which has no military significance to the existing military situation." But the Communists refused to modify their stand on this or on the withdrawal of foreign forces.

Communist Armistice Delegates, Kaesong

In reply to joy's protest on the restrictions imposed on the movement of vehicles, Nam agreed to permit free movement of properly marked vehicles provided the Communist liaison officers were informed beforehand. He denied, however, the UNC requests for granting U.N. newsmen immediate access to the conferences. Since General Ridgway had assembled the newsmen at Munsan-ni on the assumption that they would be permitted to cover all of the negotiations, Admiral joy refused to accept the Communist rejection. He informed Nam that the UNC delegation would return with the newsmen or not at all. This firm position surprised the Communists and placed the burden squarely on their shoulders-either accept the newsmen or delay the negotiations.25

When the liaison officers met the following morning at Panmunjom, the Communists held firm, perhaps to find out whether the U.N. Command was bluffing or not. In any event the UNC liaison officers informed the enemy that the motor convoy with the newsmen would be at Panmunjom at 0900. If the newsmen were not allowed to pass, the whole convoy would return to Munsan-ni.

Matching determination with determination, the Communists held up the convoy and would not permit the newsmen to go to the conference area, whereupon the whole convoy returned to the base camp. The next two days were spent in debate at the liaison officer level, with the Communists urging the UNC delegation to revive the talks and the latter steadfastly refusing to go back until the newsmen accompanied them.26

Map 1
Map 1. The Kaesong Conference Site, 1 July 1951

General Ridgway had the complete support of his superiors in Washington on this matter, and they also had approved his decision to insist upon full reciprocity of treatment at the armistice negotiations. To secure this they felt that the Kaesong area should be completely demilitarized and armed guards should be removed from the Kaesong-Munsan road.27

By 15 July the Communists decided to concede and the third plenary meeting was arranged for the afternoon. Accompanied by the twenty newsmen, the U.N. delegation returned to Kaesong and promptly pressed for equality of treatment en route and in the conference area. A 5-mile circle should be drawn around Kaesong and all armed personnel should be eliminated, argued Admiral Joy. Furthermore, freedom of vehicular movement between Panmunjom and the conference area without prior notice should be recognized. The Communists, agreeing in principle, suggested that the liaison officers work out this problem. (Map 1)

Since the Communists had assured the U.N. Command that only military matters would be discussed at the meetings, Joy agreed to drop Item 3 from the UNC agenda. As for the visit of ICRC representatives to POW camps, Joy informed the enemy that this could be taken up when POW's were considered. Thus the U.N. Command dropped two of its nine items at the third meeting. But the Communists clung firmly to the 38th Parallel and showed no signs of giving ground.28

Behind the scenes the UNC staff officers worked feverishly as they sought to discover chinks in the enemy's negotiating armor. Each night in anticipation of the next day's meeting two or three of the staff officers would prepare position papers and the other members of the UNC delegation would sit around and pick them to pieces. After several hours of critical examination, the position papers were boiled down to the bare essentials and considered ready for presentation to the Communists. This process of long hours of searching examination was supplemented by informal discussions, and it also established a pattern that was to be repeated again and again as the negotiations went on.29

The first break in the Communist position came at the fourth meeting on 15 July. The UNC delegation had revised its agenda and condensed it to four points: 1. Adoption of the agenda. 2. Establishment of a demilitarized zone as a basic condition for the cessation of hostilities in Korea. 3. Concrete arrangements for a cease-fire and armistice that would insure against a resumption of hostilities and acts of armed force in Korea periling a final peace settlement. a. Military armistice commission, including composition, authority and functions. b. Military observer teams, including composition, authority, and functions. 4. Arrangements relating to prisoners of war.

After a 2-hour recess to study the new agenda, the Communists made their first real concession. They accepted the general statement of Item 2, although they affirmed their intent to insist on the 38th Parallel in the substantive discussions. They also agreed that Item 3 was an improvement and they would examine it further. As the area of disagreement narrowed, it became apparent that the biggest obstacle remaining was the withdrawal of foreign troops.30

On the following day the Communists used a negotiating tactic that soon became standard- they outwaited the UNC delegates and induced the latter to speak first, obviously hoping that they would offer a concession of some kind that the Communists could seize upon. After Admiral Joy had explained the functions of the military armistice commission and the observer teams, General Nam declared that UNC Item 3 was still too specific. He suggested a shorter, more general statement, which the U.N. Command accepted on the 18th at the sixth meeting. With agreement on Items 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the UNC agenda attained, the UNC delegation was ready to open the substantive discussions, but the Communists continued to insist on the inclusion of the item on the withdrawal of foreign troops.31

Despite the adamant position of the U.N. Command on this matter, Nam Il returned to the attack at the next session and with a hint of sarcasm declared: "War is not travel and troops are not tourists. Should the cease-fire be ordered and armistice achieved, yet the foreign armed forces still stay where they are, it is clear that the intention is not possible to let them enjoy the scenic beauties of Korea . . . ." Possibly Nam had never seen the recruiting posters in the United States, but, at any rate, the speech made little impression upon the UNC delegation.32

Secretary of State Acheson issued a strong statement to the press supporting the UNC position on the 19th. Making it clear that UNC troops would stay in Korea until a genuine peace was firmly established, he maintained that Korea's neighbors knew that the UNC forces posed no threat to them. "Once before," he concluded, "foreign forces were withdrawn from Korea as a part of a U.N. plan to reach a final settlement of the Korean problem. The Communists defied this effort and committed aggression against the Republic of Korea. The Korean people can be assured that a repetition of this act will not be tolerated."33 Ridgway was pleased by the content and timing of the Acheson statement and felt that it would have a beneficial effect the negotiations.34

At the close of the meeting on the 19th, Admiral Joy queried Ridgway as to whether he could recess the conversations until the Communists had something new to offer. But the U.N. commander was unwilling to use this tactic at this stage of the negotiations. The onus for any break must fall on the Communists.35 He recommended, however, that the UNC delegation take a stronger attitude toward the many discourtesies and the rudeness that the Communists had displayed in recent meetings. In the future, he went on, Joy's replies, under similar provocation, should be "terse, blunt, forceful and as rude as his remarks may occasion."36

Realizing that the withdrawal of foreign troops issue might deadlock the conference or even cause the Communists to break off negotiations, the Washington leaders suggested that a slightly different approach be tried. The UNC delegation could offer a broad agenda item that would allow the Communists to discuss the matter unilaterally without committing the U.N. Command to anything. If this failed, Ridgway could agree to discussing at some future date a mutual reduction of forces. The Washington leaders definitely preferred the first solution.37

Nature provided a brief interlude for the negotiators on 20 July. The Panmunjom River flooded and damaged the bridge so that the UNC delegation could not cross. One of the translators, 1st Lt. Kenneth Wu, climbed across the broken bridge and hiked to the outpost at Panmunjom to carry the news to the Communists. Although the bridge was repaired by the next day, it did not bring the negotiators any closer together mentally. At the end of this meeting, the Communists tried another tack. They asked for a four-day recess to allow both sides to reconsider. Reluctantly the UNC delegation agreed.38

When the conferees reconvened on the 25th, the Communists made one last attempt to place the withdrawal of troops on the agenda, but the UNC representatives held firm. At the afternoon session the Communists suddenly agreed to drop this controversial subject. Instead they proposed to add a fifth item- Recommendations to the governments of the countries concerned on both sides. They announced their intention to suggest a high-level conference to consider the question of withdrawal of troops by stages soon after the military agreement was reached. Although this was vague, Admiral Joy felt that it did indicate a desire on the part of the Communists to get on to the substantive discussions. He reported that Nam Il was more intense and nervous at the meeting and that the Chinese delegates seemed to be taking a more active part. As for the concession itself, he believed that the Communists were trying to save face by securing acceptance of the new Item 5 at the same time they gave in on the withdrawal issue.39

With Washington approval of the new Communists proposal, the agenda was complete and the first matter - the adoption of the agenda - concluded. Item 2 - Fixing a military demarcation line between both sides so as to establish a demilitarized zone as a basic consideration for a cessation of hostilities in Korea- was in general accordance with the U.N. position and avoided mention of the 38th Parallel. The Communists had insisted on shortening the several U.N. agenda proposals relating to ceasefire arrangements and Item 3 reflected their workConcrete arrangements for the realization of cease-fire and armistice in Korea, including the composition, authority, and functions of a supervising organization for carrying out the terms of a cease-fire and armistice. Item 4- Arrangements relating to prisoners of war- had not been tampered with nor had the Communist suggestion for Item 5. The greatest casualties in the battle of the agenda- the question of withdrawal of foreign troops and the visit of ICRC representatives to the prisoner of war camps- had suffered mere flesh wounds and would reappear later in the substantive discussions.

Reaction at the Front

With the initiation of negotiations, the tempo of operations on the battlefield slackened. The prospect of an early end to the fighting made U.N. commanders and troops eager to prevent any unnecessary loss of life. But some small-scale, limited-objective attacks were mounted and frequent patrols were sent out to collect information on enemy activities and to prevent the U.N. troops from losing their fighting edge.

General Ridgway was keenly aware of probable deterioration in troop morale once the shooting war stopped since he had witnessed the soldier demonstrations in Europe at the close of World War II.40 Foreseeing that the truce talks might produce a similar situation, he informed Van Fleet on 4 July of his views. Phrases such as "Let's get the boys back home" and "the war-weary troops" were being used again, he pointed out. To Ridgway's way of thinking there could be "no greater tragedy" for the free world than to have a repetition of the "disgraceful" conduct of American troops after the last war. To forestall any recurrence, Ridgway went on, Van Fleet should take any steps that judgment and common sense dictated to eliminate the development of unfavorable attitudes. He suggested an educational program aimed at the "unequivocal necessity" for preparedness in Korea until satisfactory peace terms had been "finally" agreed to by all parties. Ridgway realized that some people might disapprove of his action, but maintained that if this were "thought control," then he was in favor of it. Otherwise the United States would "cowardly surrender" all that it had been fighting for. A similar message to his superiors won assurance that they would combat the rise of like attitudes at home in the event a truce was signed in Korea.41

Although an enemy offensive failed to materialize in mid-July, intelligence sources indicated that the Communists were developing their potential and had the capability to launch an attack if and when the negotiations broke down. Ridgway directed his air and naval commanders to use their air power to the maximum to interdict road and rail communications lines and to punish the enemy wherever he might be in Korea. At General Van Fleet's urging, Ridgway also sought to build up the level of ammunition in Korea to a 45-day supply, so that Eighth Army would be prepared to meet a large-scale enemy offensive.42

The slowdown on the ground front did not prevent the U.N. commander from applying pressure on the enemy in other ways. On 21 July he informed the JCS that he intended to carry out a massive air strike on the North Korean capital, P'yongyang. After warning the civilian population of several cities by leaflet that an air attack would be made on one of them, he would send his bombers and fighters over P'yongyang on the first suitable day after July 24. The Communists had stored considerable quantities of supplies and equipment at: P'yongyang and it was a key transportation center. 43

The Washington leaders immediately questioned the wisdom of a large-scale bombing raid at this time. In view of the serious political implications involved, they asked Ridgway to defer the attack on P'yongyang. The U.N. commander realized that a big air assault might have repercussions on the negotiations, but pointed out that to permit the enemy to grow stronger than the U.N. Command could mean a heavy loss in American lives if the Communists discontinued the discussions and resumed the offensive. A successful air strike would naturally reduce the enemy capacity to attack and increase the pressure upon him to negotiate. Although Ridgway admitted that his views were based on the local situation rather than the global picture, he felt obliged to inform the JCS of the dangers in allowing the Communists to augment their strength.44

Two days later, Ridgway advised the joint Chiefs that he could omit all advance warning to the civil populace since air force attacks on military installations in urban areas had been made previously and the people notified. In addition, notice of the raid would permit the enemy to improve his defense measures and reduce the tactical benefits of a strike.45

In any event the U.S. leaders reconsidered. They considered it undesirable to distribute warning leaflets for they thought this would give undue publicity to the raid. They also did not want to single out P'yongyang as a target for an all-out strike while the conferences were in session, since in the eyes of the world this might appear to be an attempt to break off the truce negotiations. However, if Ridgway would treat the mission as a routine utilization of air power and if he felt that P'yongyang was the most important objective, they would consent.46

Because of bad weather, the strike was not mounted until July 30. Even then, weather conditions were not ideal and all attacks planned for light and medium bombers had to be canceled. Nevertheless the Air Force flew close to 450 fighter and fighter-bomber sorties.

Smoke and heavy cloud coverage made evaluation of the raid damage difficult.47

As the battle of the agenda came to an end-on 26 July-the U.N. commander toured the front lines. In a cheerful report to General J. Lawton Collins, Chief of Staff, he described the Eighth Army as full of confidence and in high spirits. Training was progressing satisfactorily and recent replacements were in good physical and mental condition. Despite the rainy season, logistical capacity was unimpaired. Troop commanders had turned up no evidence of a "going home attitude" in their units.48

Despite the optimism occasioned by this tour, Ridgway cautioned his commanders to be ready to meet the most dangerous capability that the enemy could exercise. He estimated that an offensive might come either when negotiations broke down or during the Japanese peace conference.49

Up to this point, the outlook was hopeful. An agenda had been accepted, morale was good, and the UNC forces held strong defense positions. If the early compromises by the Communists were any indication of their desire for peace, the outlook for a quick settlement was favorable. But the picture was not all rosy. The enemy was increasing his strength steadily and could launch a fullscale offensive at any time. And although the Communists had apparently conceded several major points on the agenda, there was no doubt that they would bring them up again in the substantive discussions. Behind the UNC lines, the government of Syngman Rhee was highly perturbed about the possibility of an armistice that might leave Korea permanently divided and had begun to agitate against any compromise with the Communists. The storm warnings were clear and promised that the course of the truce negotiators might be strewn with obstacles. If the negotiations bogged down, the battlefield would also be affected. A loss of confidence in the outcome at Kaesong could easily lead to an expansion of combat operations. With the price of failure larger casualty lists, the center of interest continued to focus on the negotiations as the substantive discussions got under way.


1 For literary reasons, the terms "armistice," "truce," and "cease-fire" have been used interchangeably throughout this volume. According to the Office of the Judge Advocate General, "truce" signifies a temporary interruption of fighting between local forces for some reason such as the collection of the dead and wounded. The word "armistice" has a similar connotation, but is utilized to cover a temporary cessation of hostilities on a broader scale. "Cease-fire" applies when all acts of war are halted, bringing about an informal end to the war and stabilizing the situation until formal negotiations can be completed.

2 New York Times, June 24, 1951.

3 New York Times, June 27, 29, 1951.

4 Leland M. Goodrich, Korea: A Study of U.S. Policy in the United Nations (New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 1956), p. 184.

5 The U.N. leaders were not certain who was in actual military command of the enemy forces in Korea, therefore the title was made all-inclusive.

(1) Msg, JCS 95258, JCS to CINCFE, 29 Jun 51.

(2) UNC/FEC, Staff Sec Rpt, Office of CinC and CofS, Jun 51.

7 For a discussion of the making of U.S. policy during the Korean War, see Chapter IV, below. In general, the JCS, the Departments of Defense and State, the National Security Council, and the President participated in the formation and approval of political-military national policy. Ridgway's channel of communication was via the Department of the Army and the JCS.

8 Msg, ICS 95354. JCS to Ridgway, 30 Jun 51.

9 General MacArthur had established JSPOG on 20 August 1949 and staffed the group with Army, Navy, and Air Force representatives. The group had responsibility for high level planning in the theater and served as the principal planning agency for the U.N. Command during the Korean War.

10 General Ridgway later stated that he had selected Admiral Joy personally and then he and Joy had picked the other members of the delegation after consultation. Interv, author with Ridgway, 11 Dec 61. In OCMH.

11 Msg, CX 66160, Ridgway to JCS, 1 Jul 51, DA-IN 10033.

12 Msg, Ridgway to JCS, 2 Jul 51, DA-IN 10135.

13 Msg, JCS 95438, JCS to CINCUNC, 2 Jul 51.

14 Msg, Ridgway to JCS, 5 Jul 51, DA-IN 11098.

15 (1) Msg, Ridgway to JCS, 2 Jul 51, DA-IN 10135. (2) Msg, Ridgway to JCS, 5 Jul 51, DA-IN 11527. (3) Msg, JCS 95735, JCS to CINCFE, 6 Jul 51.

16 Memo, Gen Ridgway for General and Flag Officer Members of the U.N. Delegation, 6 Jul 51, in UNC/FEC files.

17 UNC/FEC Staff Sec, Rpt, Office of CinC and CofS, Jul 51, p. 7.

18 (1) Msg. JCS 95977, JCS to CINCFE, 10 Jul 51. (2) Msg, JCS 95978, JCS to CINCFE, 10 Jul 51.

19 When the main delegations convened two days later, the Communists took no chances on a repetition of this situation and for the remainder of the negotiations the UNC representatives were provided with a northern exposure. See Admiral C. Turner Joy, How Communists Negotiate (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1955). pp. 3-4.

20 (1) Mtg between Liaison Officers at Kaesong, 8 Jul 51, in G-3 Liaison Officers Rpts, 8 Jul-15 Aug 51- (2) Msg, Ridgway to JCS, 8 Jul 51, DA-IN 12369.

21 Col. J. C. Murray, "The Korea Truce Talks: First Phase;" United States Naval Institute Proceedings, vol. 79, No. 9 (September, 1953), p. 982.

22 Joy, How Communists Negotiate, pp. 4-5.

23 Transcript of Proceedings, Mtgs, Armistice Proposal in Korea, 10 Jul 51, in G-3 091 Korea, 348.

24 Rutherford M. Poats, Decision in Korea (New York: The McBride Company, 1954) , p. 204.

25 Transcript of Proceedings, Mtgs, Armistice Proposal in Korea, 11 Jul 51, in G-3 091 Korea, 348.

26 UNC/FEC Staff Sec Rpt, Office of CinC and CofS, Jul 51, pp. 12-15.

27 Msg, JCS 96160, JCS to CINCUNC, 13 Jul 51.

28 Transcript of Proceedings, Mtg, Armistice Proposal in Korea, 15 Jul 51, in G-3 Korea, 348/3.

29 Interv, author with Brig Gen James A. Norell, 12 Jun 6t. General Norell served as staff officer at Kaesong and Panmunjom.

30 Transcript of Proceedings, Mtg, Armistice Proposal in Korea, 16 Jul 51, in G-3 091 Korea, 348/3.

31 Transcripts of Proceedings. Mtgs, Armistice Proposal in Korea, 17, 18 Jul 51, in G-3 091 Korea, 348/3.

32 Transcripts of Proceedings, Mtg, Armistice Proposal in Korea, 19 Jul 51, in G-3 091 Korea, 348/3.

33 Msg, JCS 96802, JCS to CINCUNC (Adv), 19 Jul 51.

34 Msg, Ridgway to JCS, 20 Jul 51, DA-IN 16716.

35 (1) Msg, HNC 116, Joy to CINCFE, 19 Jul 51. (2) Msg, CINCFE to CINCUNC (Adv), 21 Jul 51. Both in UNC/FEC Staff Sec Rpt, Office of CinC and CofS, Jul 51, incls 11 and 13.

36 Hq UNC/FEC, History of the Korean War-Korean Armistice Negotiations (hereafter cited as Hq UNC/FEC, Korean Armistice Negotiations), July 1951-May 1952, vol. 2, ch. I, PP- 35-36. MS in OCMH.

37 Msg, JCS 96802 JCS to CINCFE, 20 Jul 51.

38 Transcript of Proceedings, Mtgs, Armistice Proposal at Kaesong, 21 Jul 51, in G-3 091 Korea, 348/5

39 Msg, HNC 136, CINCUNC (Adv) to Ridgway, 25 Jul 51, in UNC/FEC Staff Sec Rpt, Office of CinC and CofS, Jul 51, incl 15.

40 At the close of World War II, American soldiers had staged demonstrations abroad to put pressure upon the U.S. political and military leaders to return the soldiers home quickly.

41 Ridgway's letter to Van Fleet is quoted in Ltr, Hodes to Brig Gen Paul F. Yount, CG 2d Logistical Comd, 7 Jul 51, in Hq Eighth Army, Opnl Planning Files, Jul 51. For the JCS exchange, see: (1) Msg, Ridgway to JCS, 4 Jul gl, DA-IN, 10908 (2) Msg, JCS 96032 JCS to CINCFE, 11 Jul 51.

42 UNC/FEC Staff Sec Rpt, Office of CinC and CofS, Jul 51, pp. 30ff.

43 Msg, Ridgway to JCS, 21 Jul 51, DA-IN 17293.

44 (1) Msg, JCS 96938, JCS to CINCFE, 21 Jul 51. (2) Msg, Ridgway to JCS, 23 Jul 51, DA-IN 17620.

45 Msg, Ridgway to JCS, 25 Jul 5 1, DA-IN 18440.

46 Msg, JCS 97225, JCS to CINCFE, 25 Jul 51.

47 FEAF Comd Reference Book, 1 Aug 5 1, p. 7.

48 UNC/FEC Staff Sec, Rpt, Office of CinC and CofS, Jul 51, p. 32.

49 Memo for Rcd, 26 Jul 51, no sub, in UNC/FEC Staff Sec, Rpt, Office of CinC and CofS, Jul 51, incl 18.

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