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US sought secret high-level talks with Koreas in 1979: documents

By Yonhap
  • Published : Nov 25, 2018 - 10:32
  • Updated : Nov 25, 2018 - 10:32

The United States pushed for high-level talks with South and North Korea on reducing military tensions in the late 1970s, declassified diplomatic documents showed Sunday.

The Jimmy Carter administration picked Jakarta as the venue for the planned trilateral meeting of senior officials.

 It's "particularly convenient to all three parties, since each has official representation in the capital which can serve to support delegations for tripartite talks," according to a diplomatic cable.


A copy of a diplomatic document showing President Jimmy Carter`s letter to Indonesian President Suharto in June 1979. It was provided by James F. Person, a professor of Korean Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. (Yonhap)

The Indonesian government played the role of messenger between the US and North Korea at that time.

Carter expressed his gratitude to Indonesian President Suharto for the Southeast Asian country's support in a personal letter.

"Your statesmanlike gesture has made it possible to begin a process which can only serve to reduce tensions in Asia and contribute to peace in the world," Carter said in the 1979 document found and released by James F. Person, a US scholar.

Person, a professor of Korean Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, is leading a research project on US diplomatic documents related to Korea.

Another document suggested that Carter sought such a tripartite session from the early months of his tenure in 1977.

His National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski sent a note, dated on Aug. 5, 1977, to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, reading, "The President has read your paper concerning possible trilateral discussions between North Korea, South Korea and the United States, and has indicated that you should proceed to implement the suggested steps."

The US also had a plan to invite China for a four-way "political conference" either as a full-time member or a mere observer.

"Alternatively, if the Chinese choose not to participate at all, we would be prepared to join trilateral discussions with the North and South Koreans to consider matters of mutual concern, including the future of the UN Command and other measures to reduce tensions on the peninsula," the message read.

But the Carter government's efforts for such talks bore no fruit, apparently as the North showed a tepid response. (Yonhap)