HC Deb 22 July 1953 vol 518 cc374-6
46. Mr. Wyatt

asked the Prime Minister the nature of the assurance and guarantee given by President Syngman Rhee to the United Nations Command that he will abide by the terms of any armistice agreement signed between the United Nations Command and the North Korean and Chinese Communist forces.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I regret that I cannot reveal publicly the details of the assurances given by President Rhee to the United States Government since they were confidential. They were, however, sufficient to enable the United Nations Command to give firm answers to the questions put by the Chinese and North Koreans at Panmunjom. These answers were in turn accepted by the Communists on 19th July as sufficient to enable them to proceed with the arrangements for signing an armistice.

I must, however, add that as I came into the House, I read a Reuter message to the effect that the South Korean Foreign Minister had stated that his Government would not observe any implementation of the armistice.

Mr. Attlee

Does not this last regrettable news show the urgent need for a meeting as soon as possible of the United Nations Assembly, in view of the tendency—I put it no higher than that—of Mr. Syngman Rhee and his Government to run out of their engagements?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. I do not in any way under-estimate the gravity of the information that I have given to the House. I felt obliged to give it having read it on my way into the Chamber, and that it would be wrong for me not to impart it immediately to the House. I think the right hon. Gentleman would agree that it would be too early for me to make any comments upon it, but I think that every possible sequence that might follow from it, including that suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, should be followed up by the Government and the earliest information given to the House.

Mr. Wyatt

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is not only the Foreign Minister who made a statement of this kind, but that President Syngman Rhee himself has said in the last 24 hours that the agreement he made with the United States was only conditional and one of the conditions was that the political conference should come to an end within 90 days. The Foreign Minister amplified that to mean that unless the conference achieves the unification of the whole of Korea South Korea depended on the United States to help them do the job by some other means? Is it not time we made it clear to the South Koreans that British and other United Nations troops cannot remain in Korea if they will not abide by the armistice?

Mr. Butler

The consequences which may follow from the information I have given the House are obviously serious. I am aware of this reference to 90 days, which is included in the same Reuter message which came to my notice just as I came into the Chamber. I do not think I can carry it further at Question time, but I will undertake to communicate with my noble Friend the acting Foreign Secretary immediately.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm the authenticity of the so-called clarifications of the United Nations proposals published by the Chinese Command a few days ago? If so, do not those proposals make it quite plain that United Nations aid will not be given to South Korea if they break the truce?

Mr. Butler

I should not like to give a firm answer to that on this occasion, but I shall pay attention to what the right hon. Gentleman has said.

Mr. Strachey

Will the right hon. Gentleman agree that the United States Government and the Chinese Government have now made it perfectly clear that they, like Her Majesty's Government, are determined to have a truce and that it is absolutely necessary to take all steps to prevent Syngman Rhee sabotaging the conclusion of a truce?

Mr. Butler

I am aware that not only the parties referred to by the right hon. Member but also this House have the same feeling, and the right hon. Member may feel sure that the whole of our influence will be brought to bear towards that end.

Mr. Driberg

While we appreciate that this latest development has only just been brought to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman, would it be at all possible for him to try—by means of Transatlantic telephone or other means—to obtain some more information to give the House in time for the winding-up speech by his hon. Friend tonight?

Mr. Butler

Certainly every opportunity will be taken to obtain all the latest possible information.

Sir H. Williams

Is not the matter all rather complicated by the fact that, according to the Foreign Office, this country is not at war either with North Korea or with China? May I ask with whom we are at war?

Mr. Beswick

Reverting to the original answer, do we understand from the acting Prime Minister that he says the exchanges between Mr. Robertson and Syngman Rhee were confidential? Does that mean that Her Majesty's Government are not aware of what took place between the two individuals?

Mr. Butler

Her Majesty's Government are singularly well informed on all subjects, including this, but publication of such information must depend on the decision of the United States Government