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Letter to President Syngman Rhee of Korea, Concerning Acceptance of the Panmunjom Armistice.

June 07, 1953

[Released June 7, 1953. Dated June 6, 1953]

- Dear Mr. President:

I received on June 2 the cabled text of your communication dated May 30. I have given it the careful and sympathetic consideration it deserves.

The Republic of Korea has engaged all of its resources, human and material, in a struggle which will go down in history as one of the epic struggles of all time. You have dedicated your all without reservation to the principle that human liberty and national liberty must survive against communist aggression which tramples upon human dignity and which replaces national sovereignty with a humiliating satellite status. The principles for which your nation has fought and for which so many of your youth have died are principles which defend free men and free nations everywhere.

The United States has stood with you, and with you we have fought for those principles, as part of the United Nations Command. The blood of your youth and our youth has been poured out on the altar of common sacrifice. Thereby we have demonstrated not only our dedication to the cause of human freedom and political liberty, but also our dedication to an equally important principle which is that there cannot be independence without interdependence, and there cannot be human liberty except as men recognize that they are bound together by ties of common destiny.

The moment has now come when we must decide whether to carry on by warfare a struggle for the unification of Korea or whether to pursue this goal by political and other methods.

The enemy has proposed an armistice which involves a clear abandonment of the fruits of aggression. The armistice would leave the Republic of Korea in undisputed possession of substantially the territory which the Republic administered prior to the aggression, indeed this territory will be somewhat enlarged.

The proposed armistice, true to the principle of political asylum, assures that the thousands of North Koreans and Communist Chinese prisoners in our hands, who have seen liberty and who wish to share it, will have the opportunity to do so and will not be forcibly sent back into communist areas. The principle of political asylum is one which we could not honorably surrender even though we thereby put an earlier end to our own human and material losses. We have suffered together many thousands of casualties in support of this principle.

It is my profound conviction that under these circumstances acceptance of the armistice is required of the United Nations and the Republic of Korea. We would not be justified in prolonging the war with all the misery that it involves in the hope of achieving, by force, the unification of Korea.

The unification of Korea is an end to which the United States is committed, not once but many times, through its World War II declarations and through its acceptance of the principles enunciated in reference to Korea by the United Nations. Korea is unhappily not the only country which remains divided after World War II. We remain determined to play our part in achieving the political union of all countries so divided. But we do not intend to employ war as an instrument to accomplish the worldwide political settlements to which we are dedicated and which we believe to be just. It was indeed a crime that those who attacked from the North invoked violence to unite Korea under their rule. Not only as your official friend but as a personal friend.

I urge that your country not embark upon a similar course. There are three major points I would like to make to you:

1. The United States will not renounce its efforts by all peaceful means to effect the unification of Korea. Also as a member of the United Nations we shall seek to assure that the United Nations continues steadfast in its determination in this respect. In the political conference which will follow an armistice that will be our central objective. The United States intends to consult with your Government both before and during such a conference and expects the full participation of your Government in that conference.

2. You speak of a mutual defense pact. I am prepared promptly after the conclusion and acceptance of an armistice to negotiate with you a mutual defense treaty along the lines of the treaties heretofore made between the United States and the Republic of the Philippines, and the United States and Australia and New Zealand. You may recall that both of these treaties speak of "the development of a more comprehensive system of regional security in the Pacific area." A security pact between the United States and the Republic of Korea would be a further step in that direction. It would cover the territory now or hereafter brought peacefully under the administration of the ROK. Of course you realize that under our constitutional system, any such treaty would be made only with the advice and consent of the Senate. However, the action which the United States has heretofore taken, and the great investment of blood and treasure which has already been made for the independence of Korea are certainly clear indications of American temper and intentions not to tolerate a repetition of unprovoked aggression.

3. The United States Government, subject to requisite congressional appropriations, will be prepared to continue economic aid to the Republic of Korea which will permit in peace a restoration of its devastated land. Homes must be rebuilt. Industries must be reestablished. Agriculture must be made vigorously productive.

The preamble of the Constitution of the United States states the goals of our people, which I believe are equally the goals of the brave people of Korea, namely "to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty." Manifestly, not all of these conditions now prevail in Korea. Moreover, in existing circumstances they cannot be achieved either by prolongation of the present conflict or by reckless adventure with a new one. Only by peaceful means can these things be achieved.

With the conclusion of an armistice the United States is prepared to join with the Republic of Korea to seek for Korea these ends. We believe that in Korea there should be a more perfect union and, as I say, we shall seek to achieve that union by all peaceful methods. We believe that there should be domestic tranquility and that can come from the end of fighting. There should be provision for the defense of Korea. That will come from the mutual security treaty which we are prepared to make. The general welfare should be advanced and that will come from your own peacetime efforts and from economic assistance to your war-torn land. Finally, a peaceful settlement will afford the best opportunity to bring to your people the blessings of liberty.

I assure you, Mr. President, that so far as the United States is concerned, it is our desire to go forward in fellowship with the Republic of Korea. Even the thought of a separation at this critical hour would be a tragedy. We must remain united.



Note: President Rhee's communication of May 30 was not released with the President's reply.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Letter to President Syngman Rhee of Korea, Concerning Acceptance of the Panmunjom Armistice. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231906

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