§ 3.32 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have any statement to make on the situation in Korea. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in rising to ask the Question standing in my name, I should like to thank the noble Marquess the Leader of the House for being willing to allow arrangements to be made so that the Question could be put now. I think I should also acknowledge the courtesy of all the members of the House who had Motions on the Order Paper earlier but who have allowed this Question to be discussed at this stage, The Question has not been put down because of a feeling existing on this side of the House that the Americans have been at fault. We are not attempting in any way whatever to express criticism either of the American people or of the American Government. We are enormously indebted to the people and the Government of that country, and we should do everything in our power at this stage to make the opinion we have expressed perfectly clear.
I think I should add to what I have just said a reference to two quotations from leading members of the late Government, which bring added emphasis to our feelings on this matter. The first is something which was said by my right honourable friend Emanuel Shinwell, who was Minister of Defence in the late Government. He said:
I would say to some of my honourable and right honourable friends who are troubled about events in Korea and who are disposed to criticise the United States, that, as internationalist, accepting all the implications of international co-operation, we must remain on the most friendly terms with the United States. I can only foresee disaster if a different course is taken. Indeed, the case that is presented from this side of the Committee—the case put by my right honourable friend the Leader of the Opposition—is not presented in terms of criticism of the United States. It is an objective study of the situation which has emerged in Korea—no more than that—and upon that objective study we make our comments.
Mr. Attlee said:
May I say that we on this side have never concealed our admiration for the prompt way in which the Americans took up the challenge to the United Nations, and the last thing in the world I should wish from this debate would be any causing of difficulty in Anglo-American relations. That would be playing completely into the hands of those who hate us as much as they hate the Americans.
§ I am not going to speak at any length, but the next point to which I wish to refer is that made by Mr. Dean Acheson in speaking to Members of Parliament in another place. Mr. Acheson readily admitted—
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I am sorry if I have transgressed in that respect. However, may I say that there has been a general admission across the water that there had been an error of judgment, that there had been a failure to inform the people of this country of action which was to be taken? I want to acknowledge the frankness of the statements that have been made. It is the frankness of those statements that guarantees to us the continued good relations of our two countries. We are, however, concerned about where the error began. If the error began in some Government Department or between Government Departments across the water, then it is an error which can be put right by the United States Government themselves. They now know what we feel about the omission. They themselves agree that we are not being awkward on the subject, and we could leave it to them. But there must be something more than being "informed," which is the term now being used. Neither the Government of Great Britain nor the Governments of any of our Dominions can contract out of their own responsibility for their own activities in Korea or in any other part of the world. To-day the political aspect of international relations, especially when relations are broken by war, is so great that the Government of no country can afford to do that. There must be effective consultation.
We may be tempted to suppose that the error began in a particular field where the Government of this country have some responsibility. We understand that the Generals in Korea framed the plan and, realising the importance of the plan, referred some of its aspects to the Joint Chiefs of Staff—an organisation not, I understand, part of the United States Government, not directly a part of the United Nations itself, but connected with N.A.T.O. The Joint Chiefs of Staff authorised the bombing of the power 540 station. According to The Times report, it would seem that the United States Government themselves were informed of the decision taken only eight hours before the event. So it would seem that if the responsibility does rest with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, not only have we in this country ground, I will not say for complaint, but for concern, but the Government of the United States may have that feeling also.
Now one last point. Not only did the Joint Chiefs of Staff give their authority for the bombing of these power stations, but Mr. Lovett, the Defence Minister, is reported to have said that if the military authorities in Korea had asked for authority to proceed to the Continent of Asia, and to bomb towns and villages on the mainland of Asia, then the authority of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would have been all that was necessary. It would not—so it was said—have been necessary for this body to enter into consultaiton with the Governments making up the United Nations. If that is true, then we ought to ask ourselves why we know so little of what has been done. Surely the representative of this country upon that body must have some responsibility to the Government of this country. Either he must have consulted the Government before the decision was reached or he must have informed his Government after the decision had been taken. It may be, of course, that what I have been quoting is incorrect, and it will be for the new Defence Minister to give the truth about it. It would delight us to know that the report is wrong. It would also delight us to know, if the report is accurate, that the Government themselves are determined that something should be done to safeguard the interests of our country.
I am not going to say a word about the noble Earl who is to reply to this debate. I am not going to say a word about criticisms that have been thrown at him since these events occurred. The noble Earl is here to speak for himslef. I am sure that every noble Lord in the House, no matter on what side of the House he sits, will be most willing to give the noble Earl sympathetic hearing and will hope that we may gather from him the steps that have been taken or will be taken not merely to guarantee the integrity of the joint operations but to keep the rights of the respective Governments engaged therein 541 properly safeguarded, as is their due. My Lords, I beg to ask the Question which stands in my name.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF DEFENCE (EARL ALEXANDER OF TUNIS)
My Lords, as your Lordships will recollect, when I made a statement in this House on May 28 on the progress of the Korean campaign I mentioned that I had received an invitation from the United Nations Commander, General Mark Clark, to visit him in Tokyo and was promised every facility to make a tour of the battlefront. This invitation I willingly accepted, for reasons which your Lordships already know. I left London on June 6 with the Minister of State and arrived in Tokyo on June 10. I need hardly say that I was warmly received on arrival in Tokyo. During our journey we had the opportunity of a discussion with the Prime Minister of India. We were entertained by members of the Burmese Government. We spent one night in Hong Kong where we stayed with the Governor. On the day following our arrival in Tokyo, the Minister of State and I took the opportunity of calling on the Japanese Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, and we also had the privilege of an audience with His Majesty the Emperor.
On our return journey from Korea we met the Prime Minister of Canada and most of his colleagues attending a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Canadian Cabinet. We were also fortunate enough to meet the Australian Prime Minister in Washington. We were received by President Truman and had several discussions in Washington with the Secretary of Defence, the Assistant Secretary of State, General Bradley, and representatives of the State Department and the Department of Defence. In New York we visited the United Nations building and had a discussion with the Acting Secretary-General and other officials of the United Nations. Everywhere we went we were received with the greatest courtesy, and no efforts were spared to make our brief visits as useful and informative as possible.
I spent June 12 at the Army, Navy and Air Force Headquarters of the United Nations Command in Tokyo, where I was given an excellent and very full briefing on the military situation in Korea. This was of considerable value for my subse- 542 quent visit to the 8th Army, as it enabled me to have a clear view beforehand of the situation and the many problems facing the United Nations Commanders. I am most grateful to those concerned for the considerable effort involved in presenting me with the facts of the situation in such a clear and efficient manner. I was able, on that day, to discuss with General Mark Clark, and the American Ambassador, Mr. Murphy, such problems as British representation in the United Nations Headquarters, the administration of Commonwealth Forces in Japan and the position arising out of the signing of the Peace Treaty.
On June 13 we flew to Korea with General Mark Clark and were met at Seoul by General Van Fleet, Commander of the 8th Army. After more detailed briefing by the Army and Air Headquarters staff, I visited Kimpo air base near Seoul. There I was shown all the air installations, including a very up-to-date photographic unit. I also inspected the squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force based there and operating with the United States Air Forces. That squadron was highly spoken of by the American Command. The following day, June 14, was spent with the Commonwealth Division, after I had first met their Corps Commander, General O'Daniel and had been briefed at his Headquarters.
Now, the battle line here is some forty miles north of Seoul and covers a front of some eight miles, which is not unduly extensive. The terrain is hilly and broken and covered with oak scrub about the height of the Table of your Lordships' House. The hills, at their highest, rise to some 2,000 feet and, at their lowest, to a few hundred feet. Little valleys run between the hills, most of which had been cultivated as paddy fields, but not since the civilian inhabitants left the forward area. Our front line extends along a ridge of lower hills which gives an excellent field of view over a broad valley through which runs a wide and shallow river. Across this deserted No-man's-land, the Chinese trenches are clearly visible about a mile or more away—on some parts of the front they are much nearer.
I made an extensive tour of the Divisional front by jeep and on foot, and met all the unit commanders and, of course, many other officers and other 543 ranks. The first unit I visited was the Royal 22nd Regiment of the Canadian Brigade. This Battalion served with me in Italy and, later, in Canada when I was Governor-General, consequently I met many old friends in its ranks. I spent quite a time with them studying in some detail the lay-out of their defences. Positions had been well chosen tactically and a considerable amount of work had been done in constructing bunkers and trenches. Wiring and minefields also added to the natural strength of the position. I was favourably impressed by the considerable extension of new roads linking up positions of tactical importance and giving added mobility to the defence.
I will not weary your Lordships with the details of my visit to other parts of the Commonwealth front. Suffice to say that I saw some part of every unit forming the British Commonwealth Division, which includes United Kingdom, Canadian and Australian units, a New Zealand Artillery Regiment, and an Indian field ambulance unit. I was struck by the cheerful and efficient co-operation and integration shown by these Commonwealth units under the command of Major-General Cassels. They are well administered; discipline is good and they are well commanded, all factors leading to high morale. The United Nations Commander and his staff have a very high opinion of this Division and that is an opinion which I share. I think that this Division is one of the most outstanding examples of what can be achieved within the Commonwealth when a common cause unites its members. I feel sure that the parents and wives in the old country will be glad to hear that their men in Korea are in great heart. And they can be proud, too, in the knowledge that their menfolk are doing a fine job. I spent the night at Divisional Headquarters, where I met the remaining members of the staff and unit commanders whom I had not seen during my visit to the front during the day.
On the following morning, June 15, I visited the 1st Republic of Korea Division and the American 45th Division—an old National Guard Division from Oklahoma which had served in Italy under my command. Time did not allow me to visit 544 this front by jeep and on foot, so I visited it by helicopter, and had an excellent view of the forward lay-out, which, of course, was much the same in design and construction as that of the Commonwealth Division. I paid a visit to an American medium battery which was engaging targets behind the Chinese front line, and then went to the 45th Division Headquarters, where I met all the Corps and Divisional Commanders and the Commanders of all the United Nations' units in the 8th Army. After being introduced, they each gave me a two-to three-minute talk about their commands and their men's morale, and generally told me what they felt about the whole Korean campaign. To me this was very instructive and I got one clear impression, which was that without exception they were proud of belonging to a United Nations' team.
Before I leave the subject of the battlefront, I should like to say something about current operations. Although the front is static, it is by no means inactive. By day, activity is confined to air reconnaissance and photographic work and strikes against known targets. There is considerable artillery and mortar fire by both sides, which is intensified at night. Under cover of darkness, patrolling is carried out by the United Nations and Chinese, which often results in clashes. From time to time small-scale operations, up to battalion strength, are undertaken to secure identification or to secure important tactical features to improve the strength of the defence.
After my visit to the battle area and discussions with those on the spot, I came to certain conclusions, which are these. There is no doubt that the Chinese have taken advantage of the long-drawn-out armistice talks to build up their fighting strength, which was at a low ebb after their defeat last year. They have dug a formidable line of fortifications across the peninsula which is in considerable depth. Their artillery and mortar fire has increased, both in accuracy and in volume, during the last few months. The strength of Chinese units has considerably increased and they are now in a position to launch a major offensive. Evidence of offensive capability is not lacking, but there is no clear evidence of intention at the present. I am told that it is not easy to get early warning, because the 545 Chinese method is to mass their men not nearer the front than ten miles within the last forty-eight hours before zero hour and to approach the front under cover of darkness.
The feelings of those on the battlefront is one of confidence. They think that if a major offensive is launched, it may penetrate the front to a depth of several miles, but that it should be brought to a halt. I would be prepared to agree with this opinion, provided the Chinese can be prevented from moving forward and bringing into action on the front their powerful air force. Up to date our air interdiction programme has been able to keep out of action all airfields south of the Yalu River. Defensively, our positions are now strong. They are well sited in depth, with carefully prepared localities stretching well to the rear. Great use is made of wire and minefields and these are being added to and improved every day. There are, however, two factors which require consideration. First, owing to the absence of enemy air over our lines, there is a temptation to neglect the art of camouflage. Secondly, as time drags on and fresh, untried soldiers take their place in the forward units, the 8th Army will not have the numbers of battle-experienced soldiers it had in the past.
To sum up: I believe that a full-scale offensive by the enemy under present conditions can be held and that he will suffer terrific casualties. He may outmatch us in numbers of men, as he does considerably, but we are superior in fire power and mobility. I also consider that the 8th Army is a very fine one, well commanded and administered by General Van Fleet, and that it is a happy and united team, whose men are confident and of high morale. Its most striking characteristic is the team spirit, which has welded the forces of twenty-one nations into one army.
On the afternoon of June 15 I flew to Inchon, the port a few miles west of Seoul, and there visited Her Majesty's ships "Belfast," "Ocean" and "Ceylon." I spoke to ships' companies and discussed the naval situation with Rear Admiral Scott-Moncrieff, who commands the West Coast Blockading and Escort Group of United Nations naval forces. That group is an integrated command and contains units of American and other navies, and 546 I was pleased to hear of the harmony and efficiency with which the ships of the various nations worked together. I need hardly tell your Lordships that I found the Royal Navy as smart and efficient as usual.
My programme did not permit of my visiting the Commonwealth main base at Kure in Japan. I was, however, anxious to receive a first-hand account of the base and to learn of any problems which should be brought to my notice. I therefore arranged for my staff officer, Colonel Gardiner, to visit Kure on June 16. I learned with satisfaction of the efficiency and capabilities of the base, to which the Australians in particular make a major contribution. The Commander is General Bridgeford, of Australia, a capable officer. There are important installations there, including facilities for docking and repair of naval units, transhipment and storage of stores and equipment and major repairing and refitting of vehicles, guns and equipment. There is a fine hospital, to which casualties are quickly evacuated by air from the battle areas, and the usual administrative and reinforcement units. The conditions under which we retain our installations in Kure now that the Japanese Peace Treaty has been signed are under close examination in consultation with the Japanese Government, and it is hoped that satisfactory arrangements can be made for us to retain most, if not all, of our installations. These are vital to our effort, since alternative accommodation is not available elsewhere offering the same advantages of docking facilities, space and skilled Japanese labour.
Before leaving Korea, I paid a visit to the United Nations cemetery on the outskirts of Pusan, where I laid a wreath at the foot of the flag pole carrying the United Nations standard. The site of the cemetery is on rising ground and commands a magnificent view towards the sea. The design and lay out of this Campo Santo are simple and dignified. Over each plot of ground where our soldiers rest the flag of their nation flies. The graves are all carefully marked and registered and kept in beautiful order by the gardeners employed for that purpose.
On June 13 we met Major-General Harrison, leader of the United Nations delegation at the Armistice talks. The lengthy course of these negotiations has 547 been set out in detail in Part I of the White Paper issued yesterday. Our visit confirmed us in the view that General Harrison and his colleagues form a very competent team of negotiators, who have applied themselves to their difficult task with patience, imagination and a high sense of responsibility. The entire Armistice document, now covering twenty-eight pages and sixty-three articles, has been agreed by both sides, with the exception of two articles and some minor details.
We considered carefully whether to recommend that British participation should be sought. We reached the conclusion that these negotiations were already being well handled and that wider representation would not make for any improvement. Secondly, we felt that any change at this stage in the negotiating team would be hailed by the Communists as evidence of division amongst the United Nations. This, we considered, would be likely to cause further delay at the moment when only one outstanding issue prevents the conclusion of an armistice.
While I was visiting South Korean and American formations, and ships of Her Majesty's Navy, the Minister of State proceeded ahead of me to Pusan, accompanied by Her Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires. He there had discussions with the South Korean Prime Minister and members of the Administration, including several Ministers, with members of the United Nations Commission for the Unification and Rehabilitation of Korea (the Australian chairman of which body, Mr. Plimsoll, has been very successful in a difficult situation), with the United States Ambassador and the French Chargé d'Affaires, with Brigadier-General Cristz, the United Nations Civil Assistant Commander, and with Sir Arthur Rucker, Deputy Agent-General of the United Nations Korean Relief Agency and members of his staff. The Minister of State also saw a number of Opposition leaders, and President Syngman Rhee himself on two occasions.
The political position was then disturbed. Martial law had been proclaimed; a number of Opposition Assembly men had been arrested; trials before military courts were said to be about to begin; rumours were current of coups d'état, demonstrations and mass 548 arrests. Concern had been shown in this country at events in Pusan before we left for Korea. In the Minister of State's interview with President Rhee on June 15 he informed him of the grave concern felt by Her Majesty's Government and the people of this country at the situation. He emphasised that the United Nations were fighting to sustain the rule of law in international affairs and that departures from constitutional processes and democratic methods in South Korea were causing great anxiety. President Rhee assured him that it was his desire to find a solution of the problem within the framework of the existing constitution and that he was working for a compromise between himself and his opponents. The Minister of State pointed out to him that for public opinion in Britain there could be no better earnest of his intention so to do than to lift martial law and hold the trials in public and civil courts. On the following day both the Minister of State and I visited President Rhee, and I put the same points forcibly to the President.
It is to be hoped that President Rhee is indeed attempting to work for a solution along constitutional lines, but I am bound to say that we came away from South Korea apprehensive as to the future course of events there. We feel that the United Nations have a right and an obligation to see that while their forces are fighting in Korea to resist aggression and to defend the rule of law those whose territory is being defended should not act without regard either for their own constitution or for ordinary democratic principles, particularly when such action is bound to cause grave disquietude in Korea itself and so weaken the front against the common enemy.
From Pusan we went to Koje-Do to visit the prisoner-of-war camps. Their history is contained in Part II of the White Paper. There can be no doubt that a deplorable state of affairs had grown up in some of the camps containing Korean prisoners. The Koreans are a vigorous people and in our view only firmness and strict discipline will preserve order. Those in charge sought, up to February, 1952, to enforce their authority, but they had to act with inadequate forces in most unsuitable conditions. Control within certain camps 549 was lost as soon as it was decided no longer to send in United Nations guards. I believe that this decision was taken in good faith in order to avoid incidents which might hinder the Armistice talks. Nevertheless, it only led in fact to further trouble which might have had serious military consequences. A mass breakout had been planned for June 25, and one shudders to think of the reign of terror which could have ensued on the island.
We met Brigadier-General Boatner and were satisfied that he had acted with firmness and decision to restore the situation. Control was being regained over all the prisoners although in the case of Compound 76 force had first to be used. We saw the complicated trench system built by the prisoners to defend this camp and the improvised weapons with which they had armed themselves. We discussed with General Boatner the murders of prisoners-of-war committed in the camps by Communist prisoners. Inquiries are now being made to establish the identity of those responsible for these savage crimes.
We made a number of inquiries to ascertain the manner in which the screening operation between April 5 and April 19 was conducted. We found no evidence that any pressure had been exercised by the interrogators to induce prisoners to elect not to be repatriated. In fact, as is clear from the form of the announcements made, and the questions asked, which are set out in the White Paper, such pressure as was used was directed to induce the prisoners to return. The Minister of State spoke to a number of Korean prisoners who had said that they would forcibly resist repatriation. He picked out for himself the ones to whom to speak and questioned them individually with only an interpreter present. They convinced him that their reasons for not wishing to return were genuine. They had lived under the North Korean Communist régime and were determined not to do so again. He confirmed from independent persons with access to the camps that they had received no complaints about the method of interrogation.
Throughout our visit we considered how to improve liaison and consultation between the United Nations Command, the United States Government and the 550 countries contributing forces to Korea. The United Nations Command for Korea have expressed the view that it would be appropriate for a Deputy Chief of Staff to be appointed to General Mark Clark's headquarters, this officer to be drawn from the Commonwealth countries providing combatant forces. We welcome this arrangement, which has been agreed to by the United States Government. It is also acceptable to the Commonwealth Governments primarily concerned. It has been agreed that a senior British officer should be made available for this post. An announcement of the name of the officer selected will be made by Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom in the near future.
As your Lordships will have seen from the communiqué issued after the recent talks between Mr. Acheson, Mr. Schuman and the Foreign Secretary, the United States and French Governments have reaffirmed their agreement with us on the necessity for close co-operation and consultation. Her Majesty's Government are now pursuing these matters with the United States Government and other interested Goverments.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ EARL JOWITT
My Lords, I certainly have no desire to start upon a long-drawn-out debate. However, I rise to thank the noble and gallant Earl, the Minister of Defence, for the statement he has just made. I said before he went out that there was no one better qualified to give us a plain and unvarnished account of the military situation. He has done so, and your Lordships in all quarters of the House will be grateful to him for the trouble he has taken. So far as the military side is concerned, I am obviously quite incompetent to speak about it, but I gather that the noble Earl is tolerably well satisfied with the situation.
There is another side to the question. These matters are not merely military matters. They raise deep and burning political issues at the same time, and I cannot help saying that in the statement made by the noble Earl the political issues were rather allowed to become overlaid by the military considerations. That leads me to say one or two words about this bombing. I have no doubt whatever that, looked at from a military point of view, it may have been a per- 551 fectly wise thing to bomb these power stations. After all, these power stations are in Korea itself. But it is not only the military considerations that have to be borne in mind. It is necessary also to consider the political repercussions of the military action which is taken. You have to consider the political repercussion at the present time, in the present setting, when there is still proceeding an armistice negotiation which, as the Minister has said, with the exception of one or two intractable questions has been brought to a successful termination. I am not expressing any opinion about this matter, even from the political point of view. From the political point of view it may have been perfectly right to conduct this operation. I do not know. But I do say that we ought to see—and the United States have said that they are willing—that there is a close liaison which is able to look at these problems from the political and not merely from the military point of view.
I have always maintained, and I do now, that the one thing which matters more than anything else in the state of the world at the present time is complete good friendship and understanding between the United States and ourselves. If we lose that, then I think we lose the chance of a better world altogether. What has happened is a little disappointing, because I confess that when the noble Earl went out there, with his great personality, and meeting his old comrade in arms, I thought that all the cards would be put on the table and that the noble Earl would be told everything there was to be told. Apparently, for some reason that I do not understand—because I take it that this operation must have been planned before the noble Earl left Korea; I can only assume that there is some mistake, though it is an odd one—the noble Earl was not informed about it. I think that was a pity. I am not going to say that it has caused a wound, because that is far too serious a word for this. But it has made a little abrasion in Anglo-American relations, and when one gets an abrasion one has to be very careful that dirt does not enter.
We must all be careful, remembering that our enemies will almost certainly seek 552 to exploit the situation. We must all see to it that they have no chance to do so. We must all endeavour to see that this political liaison is made so that we can discuss these problems together. It would be quite foolish to deny—and I think your Lordships on the Government side of the House know it just as well as we on this side do—that public opinion is disturbed about possible wider extensions of this war. I express no opinion as to whether those fears are right or wrong, but I do say that before such actions are even contemplated, this country—and I am sure the United States will not hesitate to do so—must be fully consulted, so that our Government may have the fullest opportunity of expressing such point of view as they think proper. I give voice to that opinion, and I do so the more readily because I am certain that the Government of the United States would concede absolutely and entirely what I have just said.
There is one other matter which disturbs me. I should like to mention the position of President Syngman Rhee. Here again, it is idle to deny that public opinion in this country is deeply disturbed. After all, we want to be certain that we are fighting a righteous cause. We started this war in what was plainly to my mind a righteous cause—to repel the most barefaced aggression by the North Koreans against the South. That is how I read it. Now we seek to uphold the South Koreans, and we want to consider what is going to happen. At some time or other this war will come to an end. At some time or other, I hope, the last British and American soldier will leave Korea. Whether it is to be a United Korea or, as seems very probable, a Northern and Southern Korea for the time being, I do not know. But what sort of place is Southern Korea going to be? The Minister of Defence has told us that he is disturbed about this matter. So am I, and so are we all. He and the Minister of State made vigorous representations to President Syngman Rhee which, if I may say so, seemed to me to be couched on exactly the right lines—"abolish your military courts and your courts in secret. Abolish your mass arrests, and try to get back to some sort of democratic process."
These remarks were made, and there has been—what shall I say?—some 553 promise of reformation. I cannot say that I am altogether satisfied with that. I do not ask for any answer now, because I realise that there cannot be one, but it is a matter which in conjunction with our American friends, the Minister of Defence, in the light of the knowledge he has gained from his observations on the spot, must press and must consider; and he must see whether we cannot take some more definite and more effective steps than heretofore. I hope that I have not said anything which is going to make more difficult a situation which, wisely handled, need not become difficult at all. I should like to conclude as I began, by saying how grateful I am to the noblie Earl, the Minister of Defence, for the full and careful statement which he has made to us.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, I am sure that noble Lords in all parts of the House wish to join in expressing gratitude to the noble and gallant Earl, the Minister of Defence, for the comprehensive report he has given us to-day of what must have been a very arduous undertaking. It is quite clear that the hopes expressed in this House with which we sent him out on his mission—that that mission would be fully successful—have been entirely fulfilled. We would thank him for this fresh service which he has rendered to the State. But the Question asked from the Front Opposition Bench, on which this debate is taking place, ranges much more widely. It deals with the situation in Korea, and since the noble and gallant Earl left Korea the thoughts of the country have lately been turned upon an event to which the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, has just referred—the bombing of the power stations on the Yalu River.
Two questions arise. One is the lack of consultation beforehand with this country and, perhaps, with other members of the United Nations. The Secretary of State of the United States has lately authorised a public statement to the effect that lack of consultation was an error; that that is recognised and that it should not have occurred; and in effect he has expressed regret. As has been announced to-day, arrangements have now been made which should preclude a re-occurrence of such an error, for a Deputy Chief of Staff to be drawn from the British Commonwealth is to be appointed 554 at United Nations headquarters in Korea. Therefore that matter we may regard as closed. But, on the merits of the case, the question arises whether or not, if this Government had been consulted, they ought to have intervened to prevent the bombing of these stations. On that point I awaited with great interest an expression of the opinion of the noble and learned Earl who leads the Opposition, for we know that there is at all events a section, and a very vocal section, of the Labour Party which condemns that bombing out of hand and which declares that, even if it were militarily right, it was politically wrong. Well, my Lords, on that point the noble and learned Earl says that today he will express no opinion; and, for my own part, I think that, with such information as we have before us, that is right.
Ample opportunity has been given for many months past to the Chinese and the Koreans to end the fighting, in which case such an event as these bombings could not have occurred. There have been over many months two hundred meetings of the Armistice Committee and its sub-committees. This long delay is part of what one might call the Russian technique of diplomacy. When this matter was referred to in our debate on Defence in your Lordships' House about two months ago, I ventured to remind your Lordships that when it was intended to hold a meeting of the four Foreign Ministers of the Great Powers, their Deputies met together to draw up an agenda—merely to draw up an agenda. They held seventy-four meetings; and at the end no agenda had been drafted. When it was desired, by general agreement, to make a Treaty of Peace with Austria, a conference was summoned, in which the Russians were included. That conference held no fewer than two hundred and fifty meetings—and there is still no peace with Austria. It is a deliberate tactic of Russia—and has been, indeed, for centuries—to exasperate opponents; and the more they succeed in a policy of exasperation, the more happy they are.
This conference for an armistice may go on indefinitely—and at the end, if now they come to a conclusion, it is only an armistice. There still has to be a peace conference; and if there have been two hundred meetings to establish an armistice, how many will be needed to make a peace? So I am not at all prepared 555 to say that this bombing ought not to have been undertaken because we were just on the point of coming to a satisfactory settlement. Moreover, it is right that those who embark upon an aggressive war by their own deliberate act—as was clearly pointed out by the noble and learned Earl who has just spoken, the North Koreans and Chinese most certainly did in Korea—must expect to have to suffer.
But I think that opinion in this country is disturbed not only by the lack of consultation beforehand and not so much on the question of whether the bombing was right or wrong, but because the people are anxious lest they should be gradually drawn in or persuaded to come in to a general war, an all-out war, against China. We know that there are powerful currents of opinion in the United States in favour of more resolute military, naval and air action to try to bring this war, as they hope, to an end. They speak of a blockade of the ports of China and of the bombing of selected military targets on the mainland of China. But although you may set out intending to observe those limitations, they cannot be maintained in the course of events. If there is a blockade there are blockade runners. If there are blockade runners they may be defended, they may be armed, they may be supported by aircraft and submarines. And if a naval battle or a skirmish came, as it might, and one of the American or United Nations ships were sunk, then, as has happened in history more than once, a blockade would develop into something very much bigger that was never desired. We in this country are quite clear in our view that we will not be persuaded to enter into an all-out war with China involving, as it probably would, a war with Russia and commencing the dreaded third world war. Nor will we ourselves be committed to it by some fait accompli on the initiative of some impetuous American commander which, through another error, perhaps, becomes a casus belli with the dreadful consequences to which I have referred.
We must face the fact that with regard to China there has been for a long time before the Korean war a divergence between British and American policy. China has been in the throes of civil war, and it has been the deliberate policy of 556 this country not to engage herself in that civil war on either side. We will not take the responsibility for the good government of China. We will not attempt to manage the affairs of 400,000,000 or 500,000,000 people covering a large portion of the earth, in addition to the responsibilities which we have here at home and in all parts of the world. The United States took a different course. They actively supported the Nationalists in Formosa against the Communists, and are still pursuing that policy. I believe it is very unlikely that we shall get any detente with Russia or China or any secure peace so long as the United Nations generally support this policy with regard to Formosa. For my own part, for the last two years, ever since the Korean question came to the front, I have been preaching this doctrine from these Benches; and my noble friend the late Lord Perth, whose loss we so greatly deplore, especially on an occasion such as this was very firm in urging these points in relation to China. I believe that the Chinese Government does not care so very much about Korea; but it does care very much about Formosa.
Suppose that some foreign Power, as the result of the last war, were now in occupation of the Isle of Wight, as the Germans were of the Channel Islands, as a military, naval and air base against Portsmouth and Southampton. What prospects could there possibly be of any peace agreed to by this country being durable? Formosa to them is very much like the Isle of Wight is to us. If they are fighting in Korea they are fighting for Formosa. There, again, the view of the Americans and of ourselves is different. They want to occupy Formosa as long as possible, if it can then be used as a strategic outpost in the world-wide struggle against Communism. It appears to me that there is no hope of bringing the world truly to peace by a policy of that kind. Further, on the same point, the Charter of the United Nations says that China is entitled to a seat on the Security Council of the United Nations. Which nation do General Chiang Kai-shek's representatives attending the meetings of the Security Council speak for at this moment? The Charter allots the seat to China, not to this kind of Chinese Government or to that kind of Chinese Government. How can that seat be held, 557 not by the Government which controls the whole of China except Formosa, but by the Government that controls Formosa and none of the rest of China?
It is not an act of friendship towards the United States that we should refrain from expressing our opinions on points such as these, and then, perhaps, in some time of overwhelming crisis, that the people of the United States should find themselves out of step not only with Great Britain but with India and the whole of the British Commonwealth, and not only with the British Commonwealth but with France and Western Europe, and not only with Europe but with the United Nations itself. I hope that we shall have a full debate on foreign affairs before we adjourn in four or five weeks' time, when these and other matters may be adequately discussed. Meanwhile, it is right that we should state our views on these matters, not by way of attack on the United States—Heaven forbid! for our sentiments are very much the reverse—and not out of any desire to make much of small differences, but because our duty is to speak with the sincerity and frankness which are the truest mark of friendship.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ LORD VANSITTART
My Lords, for some time I had a Motion down on the Order Paper for next week. It related to affairs in the Far East, and I withdrew it from the Paper. I rather wish that a similar restraint had been exercised by others, although I hasten to pay due tribute to the moderation with which the matter has been handled in this House—as, indeed, one would have expected. Unfortunately, the matter does not begin or end here. The mischief has now gone so far that I have felt impelled to speak for about five minutes from the broadest possible angle, and possibly from one that has not yet occurred to other people.
I withdrew my Motion from the Paper because I was unwilling at this juncture to add to the internal feuds which apparently rage round all aspects of policy and action in the Far East. I thought a little reticence would be advisable. It will be within the recollection of the House that several times in the past few years I have directed attention to instances of offensiveness towards our major Ally. Having followed that cam- 558 paign very closely, I think I may say that it has been mostly gratuitous, but now it has something to go upon. And in my view, at a moment when we have complaints comprehension is needed, rather than outcry. It was certainly quite wise to make a protest, but it was wrong to hammer it in too hard. It is because of these troubles in the past that I feel obliged to make some comment.
Although I do not expect that anyone will for a minute be guided by anything I say, it is a fact that throughout my life—and it has been a long one—we have at intervals been addicted to the luxury of "Ally-baiting." We have not been alone in that; nor have we all been in it—in fact, one might say that it has been confined to the unbalanced portion. And so it has come about that at no time in my recollection have we ever been wholly free from the sort of muttering campaign that has now fanned itself into flame. I wonder whether we in this country have sufficiently reflected why, in spite of the (as I think) unprecedented services we have rendered to mankind, we have been so recurrently unpopular. I can tell your Lordships the reason in a sentence. It is because we have been recurrently suspected of being more tender towards our enemies and more concerned with them than with our friends. Here is an episode which may easily lend itself to some such further interpretation.
Let us look at the record just for two minutes. Throughout this century, our interests have lain parallel to those of France. We could not be persuaded of that until the knife was at our throat, on the eve, on the very eve, of the First World War—and even after that time we used at intervals to appease our worst mortal enemies. Carry your minds back to those early years after the First World War when the French went into the Ruhr. The wisdom of that operation may be questioned, just as the wisdom of this operation may be questioned, but its legitimacy was not questioned. What could be more legitimate than to attempt to restrain a recalcitrant neighbour who did not make good one-hundredth part of the damage he had caused? What happened? The unbalanced part of the country went pro-German at once, just as it had been up to the eve of the First World War, to the infinite disadvantage of poor Sir Edward Grey.
559 There are still too many of us who are a little inclined to think that when we do something that our Allies do not like they should always take it in good part. I do not challenge that if it is reciprocal. The last Anglo-German Naval Agreement was a very good example of that. But when they do something which we do not like, the welkin is apt to ring loud. I know that allies are often very tiresome and sometimes exasperating people, but I wonder whether there is any noble Lord here who supposes that we have at all times, and to all foreigners, seemed the embodiment of all light and reason. They have watched us on the international job for fifty years, and I can assure your Lordships that many times we have seemed to them obtuse and short-sighted beyond belief—and I would add, confidentially, that I have sometimes shared that view. So I think we should make every allowance for it, more particularly when we remember that in the days of Lloyd George and Curzon we were very discourteous. And now discourtesy is rife again.
Therefore I venture to propose a policy diametrically opposed to that of all disruptionists on either side alike, those in this country who lose no opportunity of "slanging" the Americans, and those on the other side who may easily become dangerous men, who lose no opportunity of belittling the importance of Europe. I should like to think that this episode will furnish a turning point, a mark, in history, that henceforth, whenever a crisis or incident arises, no matter on which side of the Atlantic it is, we shall all make every endeavour to belittle it in every way, instead of magnifying it, as has happened in this case. I propose further that we should make a non-stop effort, on both sides of the Atlantic, to put ourselves in the other's place. If the Americans had done so in this instance, they would have seen they were forcing us into a gratuitously difficult position by keeping us in the dark; and if we had put ourselves in their place, we might then have guessed at a possible reason for this perfectly legitimate operation—a reason that has not been mentioned and may not be mentioned, but I think there is some ground for it. Surely it may have been necessary to do something to allay the restiveness of troops who had suffered 30,000 casual- 560 ties during the farce of the armistice negotiations; who had seen those negotiations used for an enormous Communist build-up, which might end up by costing the lives of three out of every four of them, and who during all that time had seen no effective or countervailing action.
Is there not something in that suggestion of mine? It is very difficult indeed for many people to imagine themselves in that situation because, by the most natural process in the world, a good many of the bravest critics have not been near the fighting line. But it is necessary to make that mental effort because, if we continue to be unable to see ourselves as others see us, then the West is finished as sure as the sun sets there; for if disruption on either side is to come to power, with its cantankerous ignorance unchecked, then within a year we might have a rupture between the two English-speaking countries. And if that happened, within another generation all Western Europe would consist of Soviet satellites; and then we should know and learn at long last the cost of bad habits.
§ 4.42 p.m.
My Lords, I find myself, to my great pleasure, rather unexpectedly in agreement with the main trend of the very impressive speech made by the noble Lord who has just addressed the House. I hope his advice will be followed, and that between the spokesmen of nations there will be as little abuse and slanging, if I may use that word, as is possible in the difficult days which face us. I listened with the greatest interest and pleasure to the plain and straightforward account—as an old sailor, may I use the phrase, "the soldierly account"?—of the noble and gallant Earl the Minister of Defence. But there were a few gaps in it—no doubt gaps that were intentional. If I may be allowed to, I am going to ask the noble Earl to fill in one or two of those gaps when he comes to reply at the end of this brief debate. If, for certain reasons, it is impossible to fill them in, your Lordships will understand; but if, politically and from the security angle, it is possible to do so, I think we should like to know a little more about those matters. The noble Earl has given us an account of the plain-speaking which went on between the Minister of State and himself and the South Korean President. He did not tell 561 us what the South Korean President had to say in reply. I do not know if that is "top secret," but I think we might know something about it. It was probably a very interesting experience to meet that remarkable man.
I shall also make bold to ask whether he can say something about his conversations with the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Nehru. There has been a certain amount about this matter in the newspapers, and if those reports are accurate I gather that the Prime Minister of India had some constructive suggestions to make in order to find the way out of the impasse that we have reached on the question of prisoners in these long-drawn-out armistice negotiations. I think the whole world, and your Lordships in particular, would be glad to hear a little more about that matter. I am not a strategist. Strategy is one of the two professions for which no previous training is necessary. Nevertheless, I have studied strategy, and I believe the noble and gallant Earl will agree with me that in war or in a quarrel it is always good policy to leave your enemy a way of retreat. That is particularly the case with the Chinese. I spent some years in China, and my noble friend behind me, Lord Elibank, who has even more experience, would, I think, agree with me that, particularly in the case of the Chinese, the saving of "face," although it may appear an exaggerated peculiarity to us, is of the utmost importance. I should not mind saving the "face" of the Pekin Government if I could save the lives of United Nations soldiers, including our own. From the beginning of the year's negotiations I and many other people—my opinion is of little importance, but I believe I speak for many people on this subject—have been very disturbed and disappointed at the way the armistice negotiations have been handled. In the meantime there have been 30,000 casualties.
Just over a year ago Mr. Malik suddenly put forward this proposal for an immediate armistice—it is in the White Paper, of course—and a sigh of relief went up all over the world, and I am sure it was deepest amongst the combatants on both sides of the peninsula. The original proposal, which was supported by the North Korean and Chinese commanders, was that both sides should 562 retreat from the 38th Parallel. That sounds such a simple, common-sense solution. Why could we not have done that at once? The firing would have ended, and I believe by this time we should have been well on the way to making general peace, in spite of what the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, has said about Russian obstructiveness. I think most noble Lords would agree that it is only when they do not want something that the Russians are obstructive.
Perhaps I may say this to the noble and gallant Earl, the Minister of Defence. For many years he has been doing great service overseas, for which the nation is grateful. I do not know how much, in consequence, he is in touch with public opinion here, but I believe that at any rate noble Lords on this side of the House will bear me out, as will any publicist he likes to talk to, and probably his own Party managers, in saying that there is great disturbance in the public mind in regard to the way this Korean business has gone. There was the original advance across the 38th Parallel, then the wild dash right up to the Yalu River, followed by a precipitate retreat, then the long-drawn-out—I cannot help feeling, unnecessarily long-drawn-out—armistice negotiations, and then this sudden and terrible blow against these vitally important power stations. Why I think the public instinct reacts at once to this is that one day we shall all have to help to reconstruct Korea. One day we shall have to give help to these unfortunate people, 25 per cent. of whom, men, women and children, have been slaughtered, and thousands of whose homes have been devastated. One day we shall have to help these people on to their feet again, otherwise there is no object at all in the United Nations action. We shall have to reconstruct the country and to rebuild these power stations.
At present there is a serious lack of power stations all over the world. The programmes of Australia, India and Pakistan, are all held up by lack of materials and our own programme is retarded: and yet here we are destroying some of the greatest and most important power stations in the world which one day we shall have to help to rebuild. That seems to point to a spirit of defeatism, of despair that we are ever 563 going to get peace in Korea. I think that that is what has disturbed public opinion. It may be that the ordinary man in the street is not aware of the continual patrol action, the sniping and the bombardments referred to by the noble and gallant Earl, which have been going on the whole time along the front. It is not spectacular, and no doubt it has been crowded out of the newspapers. Apart from the unfortunate soldiers engaged, probably few others know about it. But suddenly we have this tremendous attack, at a time when the armistice negotiations looked a little more hopeful and when there was the initiative of the Indian Government (as it appears from the conversations of the noble and gallant Earl and the Prime Minister of India), which looked so hopeful as a means of finding a way out. That is why the public is disturbed. Do not believe at all that it is anti-Americanism. If you like, it is anti-militarist. I think the ordinary man in the street agrees with some famous politicians of the past, that war is too serious a matter to be left to the generals. I think the man in the street is right there, because the sphere of war nowadays embraces political problems and implications which are so entwined that the political power must be supreme and the generals must be kept in check—for this purpose, of course, I address the noble Earl the Minister of Defence as a politician, not as a general.
Of course we will go through with this thing. There have been suggestions—and I wish to deal with them at once—in certain quarters in the country, in the political groupings of the Left (I do not mean the Communists, but others), that in certain circumstances we should demand the withdrawal of our troops from Korea. That is not the suggestion that comes from responsible people in my Party, nor do I believe that it comes from the rank and file of the nation. We entered into this struggle in good faith, and we shall carry on. I myself in this House willingly supported the original action to resist aggression. I was rather glad that at last the United Nations was going to do something, after the League of Nations had so often failed. But although we are determined to go through with this thing, no chance must be lost of bringing it to an end. I believe that 564 it could be brought to an end very quickly—and here may I address myself especially to the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel—by means of a typical oriental bargain. And when you are dealing with Orientals, you have got to bargain in oriental fashion. I suggest that the fighting in Korea could be stopped and an agreement reached on suitable arrangements for the division of North and South, or for the holding of free elections for the whole country, and anything you like which might be included in a reasonable settlement, it being agreed that in return that the present Chinese Government should be recognised by Washington.
That is the sort of bargain which could be made, through, perhaps, the good offices of one or the other friendly Asiatic Powers—through the Governments of one of our friends in Asia—who might speak to the Chinese direct. And, of course, arrangements could be made to secure the agreement of Moscow. That sort of bargain could be come to at once. But, of course, we cannot proceed on those lines at the moment. We know the state of affairs in the United States with the Presidential Elections going on. But that kind of thing could be ended if the political opponents in the United States could be brought to understand that an agreement could be reached and the fighting ended, if that policy were followed. I myself firmly believe that it would end all the fighting within a very few days. You would find that there would be no Russian obstruction, no Chinoiserie. You would save a great deal of life and suffering. Above all, you would avoid the risks of enlarging, perhaps almost accidentally, this struggle and developing it into the final catastrophe of the Third World War.
The noble and gallant Earl is reported to have said in one of the speeches he made, which I am sure were enjoyed by the troops and sailors in Korea, that this campaign was a rehearsal for the Third World War. I do not know whether the noble and gallant Earl actually said that. If he did not, then in the most friendly way I would advise him to lose no time in denying it. People do not like that sort of thing. Public opinion would not call it a rehearsal for the Third World War. Many people would describe it as the curtain-raiser to hell. If the conflict should be enlarged, that which would 565 follow would be the greatest possible catastrophe to humanity. For that reason I am glad that the noble and gallant Earl went out to Korea. I am glad that we have now a first-hand eye-witness in the Cabinet. I only wish him—and I am sure I speak for all my noble friends on this side of the House—success in bringing about a final conclusion of the present hostilities.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ LORD LAWSON
My Lords, I, too, should like to pay my tribute to the clear and understandable description which the noble and gallant Earl has given us of the situation in Korea. I was very greatly interested of course—and I am sure that the House as a whole was also—to learn that there is to be a Deputy Chief from the Commonwealth Forces on the Staff in Korea. On that matter, I should like to put a question to the noble and gallant Earl. Will that. Deputy Chief from the Commonwealth Forces, who is to be appointed, have the right to be in direct contact with his Government, so that, if need be—if, for instance, a situation like that which has recently arisen in connection with the Yalu River were to arise again—there can be discussion on the political side? Perhaps the noble and gallant Earl will answer that question later. I must say that I thought the noble and gallant Earl left the subject of Syngman Rhee rather up in the air. I would rather see Syngman Rhee up in the air. I think the noble Lord who has just spoken is right in saying that public opinion is disturbed on this matter. I should say that, by his conduct, Syngman Rhee has done more damage to the United Nations' cause in the Korean campaign than all the Communists in Great Britain combined. I say that because I want to make it perfectly clear that in my view you cannot leave the question of the President of South Korea exactly where it seems to have been left at the moment.
It was always evident that when a matter of this kind, a matter of combined operations, arose, there would be difficulties. For my part, I confess that I thought the difficulties would have arisen sooner. But as this campaign went on it became quite clear, to anyone who observed it, that things were getting a little difficult for those who were not exactly in the secrets of the High Com- 566 mand. The one satisfactory feature of the matter is that we have discussed it fully in this country. The people of the country have discussed it, it has been dealt with in the newspapers and by the various Parties. Not least, in the other place it has been discussed with moderation, with the result that great tributes have been paid to the Americans by the people of this country in a manner which clearly shows an understanding of the problems which the Americans had to face in accepting the chief responsibility for this campaign.
For my part, I frankly admit that I was very pleased on the morning that it was announced that America was going to challenge the aggressive action of North Korea against South Korea, supported, of course, by the United Nations. I always wondered, when the United Nations was set up, what that organisation would do when it came up against a problem of the kind which has asserted itself so often in the history of Europe. There have, as your Lordships know, been other organisations similar to the United Nations: the League of Nations, the Concert of Europe and all the rest. I wondered what would happen when aggression did occur. Would the United Nations have the courage to challenge the aggressor? Well, the Americans settled that problem, and I am glad to say that we joined them very early on in their attempt to deal with that aggression.
It is a commonplace to say that we live in dangerous times. It is an amazing thing that when mankind has brought to fruition the age-long struggle for knowledge, which could make this world a place of wonder and beauty for all, that very knowledge has created danger for the world. All that the average man and woman want is to be left alone in peace. The only people who are dangerous to the world are those who want to use this new-found knowledge for the purpose of killing liberty and of bringing power to themselves. I do not care what they they call it—Communism or any other "ism"—the people who want to use this power and hold it over the lives of millions of people are using it for themselves. And I think it is a very good thing that the United Nations have asserted themselves. It gives hope to the world. As the noble Earl has told us, with his particular authority, we 567 have in Korea a large number of nations working and fighting together for a common cause. I repeat, the American people can take it, from the spirit in which this incident has been discussed, and from the tributes which have been paid by all Parties, including the Labour Party, in another place, that, while we have had to make complaints about this incident, it has been dealt with in a spirit of amity and friendliness. The great hope of the world lies in the fact that when this friction has arisen, the United Nations have stood up to its effects. I should like an explicit answer from the noble Earl to my question: whether the Deputy Commander will have a right to contact his Government and to discuss matters with them.
§ 5.3 p.m.
My Lords, in the space of one and a half hours this debate has covered a great deal of ground, as it was likely to do, and I wish to intervene only for a few minutes. I feel sure the House is deeply indebted to the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Tunis, for his comprehensive and interesting survey of his visit to Japan and Korea. I had proposed to confine myself to one aspect of the situation with which we are confronted to-day, but I have been led astray by a remark made by my noble friend Lord Samuel. In the course of his interesting speech, with the greater part of which I heartily agree, the noble Viscount said he did not think the Chinese were fighting so much for Korea as for Formosa. I do not think that to be the case. I think the possibility is that the noble Earl, after his visit to the North West Pacific waters, will be inclined to take my view.
Korea is not just a little peninsula jutting out into the sea. Korea has been the cockpit of strategic conflict in the Far East for many hundreds of years. Korea is the gateway from the East into Manchuria and the Northern Provinces of China. It has always been regarded as such by China, ever since the first invasion of Manchuria by the Japanese at the end of the sixteenth century. On the other hand, Korea in possession of a Western nation is a dagger at the heart of Japan. For Russia, always longing since the sixties of last century for a hot water 568 port—and she will perennially long for it—Korea has provided an incentive for moving southwards. Since my days in China the possession of Korea has always been regarded as a direct maritime way to Pekin and the Northern Provinces of China. My view is that China is fighting for Korea and for the future of Korea, and not so much for Formosa. She hopes that Formosa will drop into the bag, and I have no doubt that in time it will.
If there is to be any settlement in the Far East, the neutralisation of Korea, where three Empires meet, will go a long way to achieve our aim. I have been led away by my noble friend below me, but the point is one of substance, and it will become one of greater substance as soon as (and I hope it will be sooner rather than later) an armistice is arranged and a Peace Conference takes place. As the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, knows, on three or four occasions I have pressed for greater British participation when that Peace Conference takes place. In a sense, that may be achieved by the very thing that has happened in the last few weeks. I do not propose to-day to deal with the bombing of the Yalu power stations, which I know well, and I come directly to the question of consultation, which has led to this crisis and about which there has been so much heart-burning on both sides of the Atlantic. In considering that subject, we must examine the position of United Nations and see where we stand.
After the United Nations had declared North Korea to be the aggressor, they called on their Member States to resist the aggression, and twenty-five Member States responded in one way or another to the call. The United Nations handed over to the United States the duty of appointing a Supreme Commander. In saying this, I am measuring my words—they are the words of the Prime Minister. We have been told in some quarters that the United States are the agent of the United Nations in this matter. That is different from having handed over to them the appointment of a Supreme Commander. But, in any event, I suggest that from that moment the United Nations lost contact with the military conduct of the war. If they were to retain contact with the military conduct of the war, and a position arose in which, on the part of the Supreme Commander 569 there was any doubt as to the political consequences which might result from a military operation, then obviously that doubt could not be referred to the military representatives of the Chiefs of Staff of the United Nations, looking to the composition of the United Nations as we know it to be. That contact broke down, with the result that we had this crisis.
As was said by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd—it was the first time I have heard it, but he is quite right—the point was referred to the Chiefs of Staff Committee in Washington. But the Chiefs of Staff Committee in Washington had nothing to do with the United Nations.
Yes, the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But they had nothing to do with the United Nations.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
If I may interrupt, the Joint Chiefs of Staff are a body representative of the North Atlantic Organisation.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF TUNIS
Perhaps I should make this point clear. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are the American Chiefs of Staff under the Chairmanship of General Bradley: they are purely an American body.
But, as I understand it, they have no direct official contact with the United Nations. Therefore, in this matter, as I see it (I may be wrong, and the noble and gallant Earl will correct me if I am), in the event of any doubt on the part of the Supreme Commander as to the desirability, or otherwise, of a certain military operation (resulting from some doubt as to the political consequences) so far as any reference to the United Nations as the ultimate authority is concerned, the United Nations are in the air. I cannot see it any other way. For obvious reasons, that doubt could not be referred to the military representatives of the Chiefs of Staff attached 570 to the United Nations. If that is so, it represents a direct gap in the line of contact between the United Nations, as the ultimate authority, and the Supreme Commander in the field.
That gap existed, and this crisis arose. I believe that the gap ought to have been foreseen, and I can see no reason why it was not. It was known that a matter of this sort could not be referred to the military representatives on the United Nations. I am not sure that all Governments concerned are not to blame, including the late Government. The late Government, the present Government and the Government of the United States did not foresee that there was this gap. If I am right in saying that there was a gap, then I think it ought to have been foreseen. This crisis would never have arisen, and the heartburnings and the hue and cry passing across the Atlantic would never have taken place.
I only hope that in the arrangements which have been made this is not to be transformed from a United States Command into a United States-United Kingdom Command. No doubt France, the Commonwealth and other countries, too, would have something to say about such a step. What has happened seems to me to point to the inherent difficulty in attempting to make the United Nations at one and the same time a world policeman and also a meeting place where international disputes can be ventilated and where all the good work of the United Nations Commissions, Agencies, and other Organisations can be carried on. This is a matter upon which I have touched in other places, and it is one to which The Times has given great prominence. Of course it is an awkward question. But if we look around us to-day, whether in our private lives or in public affairs, both domestic and international, we are confronted with awkward questions on every side. But awkward situations do not become any the less awkward by refusing to face up to them, and by making no effort to solve them. However that may be, my hopes are centred in maintaining and enhancing, the use and prestige of the United Nations for all its main and outstanding purposes of elevating humanity at large to higher and more prosperous levels.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ LORD CALVERLEY
My Lords, I intervene for only a few minutes. I have been at the receiving end of public opinion in the north during the last few days, and I have gathered that our countrymen realise the debt which we owe to the noble and gallant Earl and the Minister of State for their recent visit to the Far East. What has made the war in Korea apparent has been the bombing of the electricity installations on the Yalu River. Ordinary people are puzzled that as the Minister of Defence visited not only the Pentagon but also Tokyo, he appears to have known little of what was going to take place. That has puzzled people of all political thought, and has also given a pretext for sincere pacifists to criticise war in itself. I hope that nothing will be done to disrupt the unity of the nation in what we are trying to do to make the writ of international law run in the Far East as in other places. My noble friend Lord Strabolgi mentioned the bombing of electricity installations. Some of us used to think that bombing, especially of people's houses, was useless. Without being able to give a direct answer, I should say that the bombing of those installations was a proper military objective. I criticise it only because the noble and gallant Earl, the Minister of Defence, seems to have been taken by surprise.
My noble friend says, "proper military objective"—yes, with a full-blooded campaign going on, with a hot battle going on, but not when your armistice talks have reached a critical stage.
§ LORD CALVERLEY
I have often thought that those who are conducting the truce talks on our side should take the Book of Job with them and read portions of Holy Writ out of it, because they must be getting out of patience. These armistice talks have been going on for about a year, and it is about time they finished. I hope that we adopt the valuable suggestion of my noble friend, Lord Strabolgi, when he mentioned the offer of the Prime Minister of India. If the Prime Minister of India will take these prisoners off our hands, we shall be very glad.
I am surprised at the moderation of the people in this country. Fortunately they do not read the American papers. I read Saturday's New York Times, and 572 some of those American politicians are even more aggravating than noble Lords opposite. I ventured to write a letter to the New York Times last August, and I made a suggestion that we could deal with these matters, especially General MacArthur (because he has been the cause of the Chinese coming into the war—at least I think so) better than the Americans. We should have made him an Earl, and he could have come to this House and talked as much as he liked, and he could have been answered back. But that is by the way. I am hoping that the bombing of these electricity installations will bring to the notice of the Soviet Union, China and their stooges in Northern Korea that we are about "fed up" and that we want to bring this matter to a crisis. We want an armistice because the people of this country want peace. So far as I know, public opinion in the north is behind the Minister of Defence in what he has done.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ LORD KILLEARN
My Lords, I understood that this was to be a short debate, but it seems to have over-slid a little. That is my pretext and excuse for getting up and addressing your Lordships. It had not been my intention to do so, but perhaps I shall be forgiven if I add another few minutes to the debate. If the bombing, of these Yalu power plants was considered strategically and militarily desirable, why should we not have carried it out, as we have done? Surely it should be approached from that angle—from the strategic angle. I suppose it is unfortunate that we were not consulted, but whether we were consulted or not does not affect the military necessity for carrying out this particular operation. Having listened to this debate, it seemed to me that there was some strength in the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, from the angle of our troops in the field, sitting there through all these endless months, wondering what is going on. Therefore, I come back to that point. It seems to me only common sense that if the bombing of these plants was considered (as indeed it must have been considered) justifiable and necessary from the point of view of strategy, surely it was justified.
I add only this one point. The bearing of the Korean affair on the whole situation in the Far East must not and 573 should not be overlooked. Anything which tends to help the forces of the United Nations to win in the field should be done, including this bombing. Do not forget the effect which any setback to the United Nations' forces will have in other areas throughout the Far East. Take Malaya and the Communists in the field there. Any setback to the United Nations in Korea will immediately invigorate those so-called bandits. Again, take Indonesia, farther south. I speak of these areas because I have just returned from a three months' tour and, therefore, they are fresh in my mind. I do not know the population of Indonesia. Java, I believe, is the most thickly populated area in the world. Put it at 50,000,000 or whatever it is; anyhow the total population of Indonesia is very considerable. So far these people—the Indonesians—have remained solidly and consistently on the right side of the bamboo curtain, if I may use that phrase again. We do not want them to slide over to the wrong side. We do not want any loss of face, as somebody said about the Chinese, or any loss of position in Korea to encourage those people in all these areas who are waiting for a setback. Surely we cannot want that.
Swinging farther north, I was in Japan, and of course the noble and gallant Earl has been there even more recently. The Japanese are at the parting of the ways, in a sort of fluid state. Surely there again we should do everything we can to show that the United Nations, when they take action, take it effectively and efficiently. Thus I come back to my first point. If by bombing these Yalu power plants we contribute in any way to the success of the United Nations, why in heaven's name not do it? And what a thousand pities that it should become a matter of contentious argument here in our domestic politics! To my mind, that is wrong. I repeat that I had not meant to speak in this debate, but these are thoughts which obtruded as the debate developed.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF TUNIS
My Lords, in winding up this debate, I shall do my best to answer the many points of interest which have cropped up. The first point I should like to discuss is the one raised by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, who quite rightly said that, in choosing targets, the political aspect must be taken very seriously into account 574 and that it is not only military considerations which must weigh—or words to that effect. I entirely agree with that point of view. But I should like to explain to your Lordships the military necessity which dictated the bombing of these power plants in North Korea—you will, of course, realise that these power plants were all in North Korea. Four of them are near the East Coast and only one, the Suiho Dam, is near the Yalu River, 1,000 yards from the frontier.
I do not know—I am inexperienced—what I can or cannot say in this House, but with regard to these targets, General Bradley said that during the early fighting, when the battle line went backward and forward and the power stations were put out of action, a lot of machinery was taken out, and since then the stations have been inactive. But recently the Chinese have taken the machinery and started working it again, and it is these power plants which are supplying the hydro-electric power for the many little factories in North Korea which are making weapons of war and munitions for these Chinese forces to fight with. The workshops having been established in these tunnels, they are being supplied with electric power to work the machinery.
I will ask your Lordships to consider this, because it is the real point of the whole thing. The Chinese outnumber us by about two to one. We are therefore heavily outnumbered. But, to offset that, we are infinitely superior m fire power and mobility. During the eleven months these armistice talks have been going on, the Chinese have been heavily reinforcing with men and arms. Artillery and mortar fire on the ground has increased to a great extent during the last few months. Now, if the Chinese and the North Koreans are going to come somewhere near us in fire power the situation will be very dangerous indeed, and that is the reason for the bombing of these plants. We are putting them out of action because our own men's lives are at stake—and not only our own men's lives but the whole of the United Nations front. We can hold our own at the moment, I think: we can hold our own all right. But if the Communists approach us in fire power that will be quite a different matter.
575 There was another question which cropped up. I was asked why I was not told about this bombing, because (it was said) surely it must have been "laid on" for a long time. Yes, it was a project which had been "laid on" for a long time. But a good military commander has quite a number of projects to carry out if necessary. The reason I was not told was that General Clark had not decided to carry it out when I was with him in Japan. I have a telegram here, of which I will give your Lordships the gist. It says of General Mark Clark that he had not known of the planned raid before the Minister of Defence left. Had he known he would have told me. The plan was submitted to him (General Clark) the next day. He approved the operation and informed Washington.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF TUNIS
It was sent from Tokyo after a conversation with General Clark. He also said that he is very sorry if he caused the Minister of Defence any embarrassment. I left Tokyo on the 18th, and went to Canada. I did not get to Washington until midday on the Sunday. At 10.30, I had a long conversation with General Bradley which lasted for an hour and a half. That was the morning on which the bombing took place. In our conversation General Bradley told me that it had already taken place. I do not think I could possibly have been consulted; I suppose they could have sent me a wire while I was in Ottawa, but I do not think that was quite necessary. The Americans ought to have told us somehow before they did it. We must not labour the point. They have admitted that they were wrong in not having consulted us beforehand.
Now for another point. The noble Lord mentioned Syngman Rhee. The situation there is very unsatisfactory. I do not know what we can do about it—unless we take him into protective custody, which I suppose is possible. Or would that be very undemocratic? However, the situation is very serious, or can be very serious. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, who asked me to say something about my conversation with Syngman Rhee. Well, my 576 Lords, I cannot give it all, but the gist of it is this. I said: "Now, Mr. President, I have come 10,000 miles and I think, having come to your country, the least I can do is to say what I think is my duty; and that is to tell you how very seriously the British people feel about your conduct—putting on martial law for no apparent reason and arresting people without trying them, and so on. The British people do not like that sort of thing, and they do not think much of you on account of it." He said, "I am not understood by the British people. They are ignorant of the true state of affairs and they do not realise that what I am doing is for the best." I said, "Mr. President, it is your fault if the British people do not understand your conduct."
I tried to point out very clearly that he was doing himself a great deal of harm by these acts, and that he was losing the good will of the British people. I said that he ought to take off martial law and so forth. But I got no satisfaction. I said: "Before I depart, may I deliver a message to Mr. Winston Churchill which will be satisfactory?" He said: "Please give Mr. Churchill my best wishes and say that I inquired after his health, and that everything will come all right in the end, and that all I would ask of him is to have patience." That was Syngman Rhee's message to the Prime Minister.
The question arose of a Deputy Chief of Staff, an appointment which the Americans have agreed to accept. I must make it quite clear that if a Deputy Chief of Staff is accepted at General Mark Clark's Headquarters he will be one of General Mark Clark's own staff. His loyalty must be to General Clark: he cannot send information to us. His loyalties are to the Commander under whom he is serving. But a good man, one in whom General Mark Clark has confidence, will be exceedingly useful to him. The General will be able to consult him on anything about which he is not quite sure. A good Deputy Chief of Staff will go to the General and say: "General, you have just given orders about a certain thing. Have you consulted the British about it, or somebody else of the United Nations, because these things are quite likely to cause trouble if you don't?"
For two and a half years during the war, when I was in Italy, I had an 577 American Deputy Chief of Staff, and he was of great use to me, because he kept me informed of American opinion. If I was doubtful about anything, I would send for him and say: "What about this. Is this 'O.K.'?" He would say: "'O.K.' Chief, that's all right"; or he might say: "No, don't do that" I will not go further into it now, but if we can get a Deputy Chief of Staff at the Headquarters of General Mark Clark, I think he will be able to set up the necessary machinery so that the British Commonwealth and the other United Nations forces fighting with the 8th Army in Korea can have some kind of liaison information bureau through which they will get the necessary information. At the present moment the whole situation as regards information and liaison is not satisfactory. It is very untidy.
§ LORD HENDERSON
May I interrupt the noble and gallant Earl for a moment? The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said that the appointment of a Deputy Chief of Staff would avoid the sort of break in consultation between the Washington Government and this Government. I would venture to suggest that if there had been a Deputy Chief of Staff during the last few months, it would have made no difference at all to the failure to get consultation, and that the appointment of a Deputy Chief of Staff gives us a contact within the Commander-in-Chief's organisation but does not in any shape or form at any point touch upon the problem of the consultation, or the lack of consultation, between the Governments.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF TUNIS
What the noble Lord says is perfectly true; it does not. It will help a great deal at the Korean end, but, of course, where we must get consultation is in Washington.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF TUNIS
The machinery is all there for it. It is a slip-up that we were not informed this time One does not like to say: "Well, perhaps some good will come out of this error," but I think there has been such a row about it that it will not happen again. I hope not, anyway.
Do I understand this correctly? Are further explorations still going on for a better liaison in Washington between our spokesmen and the Americans?
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF TUNIS
I do not think I can answer that question at this moment, but the noble Lord can rest assured that anything that can be thought out and arranged to strengthen liaison will be done.
The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, also asked me whether I would say something about my conversations with Mr. Nehru in Delhi. I am sorry, but could not possibly do that, because those conversations were very secret and confidential. I could not possibly do that unless I obtained Prime Minister Nehru's consent to do so. We discussed all sorts of things. As regards the armistice, I honestly think that General Harrison and his team are doing a good job. I think they are very honest, sincere, and patient. I do not think we ought to blame them for not having obtained an answer yet. After all, it takes two to make an armistice. If noble Lords will study the White Paper and see how far the Armistice talks have proceeded, they will realise that it is really only one point which is holding up the whole matter—and it is a very serious point. It is the point about the repatriation of prisoners who absolutely refuse to go back. What are we going to do? How are you going to send 70,000 men back—at the point of the bayonet? That is something we would not attempt to do. It is very serious. How we are going to get round it I do not know. Of course, no problem is insoluble but it is very difficult to find the right answer to it. We very much hope that we shall find an answer soon, because, although the Armistice talks have been going on now nearly a year, as I told your Lordships, the front is by no means inactive. The Americans have had over 30,000 casualties during that period—I have the figures here—and we ourselves (by which I mean "the Commonwealth") have suffered something in the nature of 2,000 casualties; so it is a bit of a shooting match still.
579 I should like to put something right at this point. I have been accused of saying that this campaign "is a rehearsal for a Third World War." Your Lordships will be pleased to hear that I did not say that. I was talking to some sailors, and was saying: "It is a wonderful thing for you to go over to the 8th Army and see how well they co-operate together." Then I said this: "This rehearsal in co-operation will prove valuable if unfortunately we should ever have to fight together in another world war." I said: "This rehearsal in co-operation." Perhaps it was not a very happy word to use, but I used the word "rehearsal."
I think I have answered your Lordships' questions to the best of my ability and I hope I have answered them satisfactorily. May I suggest that if this debate has cleared the air over the Korean situation, and if my short report—which I should have liked to make much more full, but military secrets cannot be given away; certain things cannot be said because of the harm they do on the front—has been of any use to your Lordships, then I feel that my mission has not been undertaken in vain.