An Analysis of the US Diplomacy in the Era of President Nixon's Détente:

A Case Study of Chile and South Korea


Jung-Kyu Suh


Thesis Advisor: Alexander Ganse


   Writing this paper was a significant experience for me in many aspects. I have learned the proper methods that are to be taken in real comparative historical studies. Unlike the term papers in ordinary history classes, this paper brought me one step closer to actual university level studies.

   This paper took seven months of preparation. In the process, I have been advised and helped by many. Mr. Ganse, my thesis advisor, has provided me with comprehensive knowledge on the subject, eagerly trying to help me by the internet even during his vacation to Germany. Mrs. Son, teaching both United States and Korean history, helped me narrow down my once too wide topic. Mr. Oberdorfer an expert in modern Korean history, and Mr. Landman, an established scholar in contemporary Latin American history, have sent me crucial pieces of advice via e-mail. Finally, Mr. Williams, who had worked for the United States government in the era of Détente, contributed to the overall logic of the paper. I would like to thank them all with sincerity in this foreword.

   This study has been my first serious study on a specific subject. It may not be complete, but the lessons it taught me will eventually complete me as a scholar. I have taken my first step into the academic world.

I. Introduction

The era of Détente roughly refers to the period from the late 1960s to the end of the 1980s in which the tension between the two ideological monoliths decreased substantially. Spurred by the Nixon administration and its foreign policy advisor, Kissinger, the Détente was preceded by the era of containment, whose adamant diplomatic stance led the United States of America into the puddle of the Vietnam War.

Eagerly trying to pull the nation out of an inveterate problem, the Nixon administration pursued a different style of diplomacy which considered the utmost priority in international relations as national interest, not ideology. This new attempt resulted in the triangular diplomacy between the US, the PRC (People¡¯s Republic of China) and the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), and it eventually led to several landmarks in diplomatic history such as the SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) and the Shanghai Communiqué. As a result, the frozen relationships between the world¡¯s super powers were warmed up, at least formally. That is why many tend to call this era or phenomenon as "Détente," which means relaxation in French.

Nevertheless, the Détente has not witnessed only relaxation. The warming up of relations between the US and the PRC, represented by the Ping Pong Diplomacy, posed a considerable threat to the North East Asian allies of the United States in terms of national security and sovereignty. Moreover, the mitigation of the Brezhnev Doctrine in the Détente expedited several direct, indirect interventions of the United States on the socialist regimes of Latin America.

The South Korean people, witnessing the extrication of the US from Indochina, recognition of PRC as the legitimate China, and the coerced withdrawal of Taiwan from the United Nations, could not wholly oppose the consolidation of power by their extreme rightist dictator, Park, Chung Hee. This resulted in a major escalation of tension between the two Koreas.

The Chilean people, despite their long and proud democracy, were harassed of their national sovereignty due to US intervention against the democratic socialist regime of Salvador Allende and the rise of Augusto Pinochet in a CIA-backed coup d¡¯état. Pinochet, an ultra rightist, sparked several baseless wars against the neighboring countries of Latin America, and brutally suppressed his people¡¯s human rights.

This paper delves into the seemingly ironical aspects of the phenomenon that occurred in the period of Détente. It furthermore discovers the real motivations behind the world¡¯s super powers that were veiled behind the name of relaxation and cooperation in order to answer those contradicting events in the two countries discussed: South Korea and Chile. The period of Détente, therefore, is revisited in terms of its core properties.

II. The Diplomacy of the United States in the Time of Nixon¡¯s Detente

1. Background

As the 1960s came to its end, the age of the United States¡® clear domination of the world was being challenged by a variety of factors. The US was no longer the super power that could economically, politically, militarily deliver its will unilaterally and deliberately to the world. The US entered the "Age of Limits" in which the economy fluctuated heavily by the surging wave of European and Japanese manufacturing industries, resulting in a comparative decline in national growth. The country¡¯s nuclear arsenal was faced with political disputes and Soviet threats, while the military in the turbulent war in Vietnam were forced to be extricated as soon as possible.

On the other hand, the communist monoliths that had once possessed the resources and cooperation to withstand the United States had slowly begun to crack up internally. The Sino-Soviet Split, for example, had imposed difficulties in maintaining a strict bipolarity in international politics at the time.

This mutual need for escaping the stalemate status quo at the time resulted in the US exploration into a unique diplomatic trend; Détente, which had been a developing process in Europe. This trend has given birth to changes in the political landscape of many countries during the 1970s.

2. The Nixon Doctrine: National Interest as the First Criterion

   Having been inaugurated as the 37th President of the United States, Nixon rejected the containment approach to foreign policy. Not surprisingly, the era of confrontation and containment had begotten many problems such as the Cuban missile crisis and the Vietnam War. As mentioned in the introduction, the United States was entering a general downhill course in terms of its economy, military, and reputation as a world police, compared to the immediate post war years. It was thought that the US no longer could oppose every communist revolution or movement. The US could no longer afford to charge against domestic political protests and continue its fight against the Soviet Union. The glorious days of Kennedy in which the US would "bear the burden of a long twilight struggle" and face any obstacles in its way were fading away. The world was changing according to the flow of time, and so needed the United States to change in order to avoid its slow demise and again enjoy its prosperity. A reassessment of American foreign policy, and a move to the era of negotiation was necessary.

   Nixon needed to first extricate the country¡¯s forces from Vietnam. Secondly, the country needed to ease the overall tension in Berlin and the Middle East. Thirdly, according to domestic ideological demands, and due to the increasingly threatening possibility of a surprise attack, nuclear arms controls had to be carried out. Removing these problems would remedy the damage done in such a period. The problem was how. The existent schools of diplomacy could not suggest a favorable method. Hence, Nixon¡¯s foreign policy advisors decided not to stick on preceding principles or theories, but adhere to only one basic priority National Interest.

   This might seem a trivial thing to many, but considering the Wilsonian tradition of American foreign policy, it was indeed a remarkable thing to explicitly point out national interest as the number one priority that could overrule other ideological convictions.

This intention is well expressed in the Nixon Doctrine. This doctrine tried to adjust the degree US intervention in various regions by adopting three criteria in its diplomatic decisions.

*The United States would keep its treaty    commitments

*The United States would "provide a shield if a nuclear power threatens the freedom of a nation allied with us or of a nation whose survival we consider vital to our security"

*In cases involving non-nuclear aggression, the   United States would "look to the nation directly threatened to assume the primary responsibility of providing the manpower for defense" [1]

3. Linkage: the Means of Realizing the Nixon Doctrine

   Linkage refers to the diplomatic strategy the Nixon administration employed in realizing its seemingly unrelated goals. In order to handle many problems in the most efficient manner, the Nixon administration used one force to balance the other. That is, in solving the problems in Vietnam, and in arms limitation, the United States invited both the PRC and the USSR. Tired of the Sino-Soviet conflict that had ensued for years, and also worried that the other side would gain higher grounds in terms of diplomatic, geopolitical matters, the two communist giants both slowly turned cooperative to the United States.

1) Opening of China (Ping Pong Diplomacy)

   The first step the United States took was the amelioration of relationships with China. A crack between the two Communist powers seemed to widen, and Kissinger was keen enough to take advantage of it. Resuming the Warsaw talks, Kissinger later made a secret visit to the PRC in July 1971, and according to the agreements made in that visit, President Nixon made an official visit in February 1972, signing the Shanghai Communiqué. The two countries agreed upon the elimination of any attempts to gain hegemony in Asia. This meant that China would neither interfere in Indochina nor the Korean peninsula, and the United States would have to take commitments equivalent to such efforts. This agreement was strengthened in February 1973 by expanding the sphere of interest from Asia to the World.

2) Expediting Soviet Cooperation

As the PRC and the United States exchanged friendly gestures, the Soviet leadership had become more impatient about their isolation from the world. Hence, in order to compete with their Chinese counterpart, the Soviets came more cooperative to arms limitations negotiations as well as conflicts arising from communist revolutions in many parts of the world. The Brezhnev doctrine, which encouraged all workers in the world to go against the bourgeois society and break into revolution, was thus reconsidered, and modified in favor of the United States. Overall, the negotiations with the Soviets were extensively expedited.

4. Reading between the Lines of the Cold War

Thanks to the Détente of the 1970s, the United States regained its diplomatic initiatives in the world society to some extent. The diplomacy in the period of Détente, many say, further contributed to the true relaxation of the Cold War period. China started to open itself to the world society by joining the United Nations, the second round of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT II) began, Willy Brandt¡¯s Ostpolitik came to realization, and the super powers sent gestures of friendliness to each other.

However, this cannot stand as wholly true since neither the Communist world nor the United States backed this effort to contribute to world peace. This rather was a product of the world¡¯s biggest countries¡¯ struggle to defend their respective national interests.

Since self interest was the driving force of the powers in the Cold War at that time, it is important to examine regions in which Détente came as a destabilizing factor, not a relaxing one. Contradicting, it could be found to the French meaning of Détente, but by discussing two distinct regions in which both the Soviets and the Americans had a certain amount of interest, this paper would like to justify its claims.

III. The Fall of Allende, an Elected Socialist President in Chile

"The Other Side of the Détente: Chile"

    In November 3rd, 1970, Salvador Allende was inaugurated as the first socialist President of Chile, much to the US¡¯s discontent. Due to sabotage from the CIA, Allende won his presidential elections only by a very narrow margin. Originally having planned to be a physician, Allende received 36.3% of all votes, but still had national support in many solutions to Chile¡¯s economic hardships.

1. Chile¡¯s Socialist Experiment Fails

    Allende and his socialist coalition party, Unidad Popular (UP), or Popular Union, were determined to accomplish the socialist reforms they had planned for. This was intended to develop the country¡¯s economy in an equitable way, thus saving the unprivileged mass from poverty. Such reforms included the nationalization of the copper mining industry and other private conglomerates and the acceleration of a nationwide agrarian reform. These reforms were not executed under a dictatorship, but were conducted in a fairly democratic way.

   These series of experiments have, however, proven unsuccessful, and the people of Chile started to question the leadership of their president. Strikes and riots occurred constantly. The western media was harshly critical on most of the government¡¯s deeds. Developed countries became pessimistic on trading with Chile, and much foreign investment fled the country. Nose diving copper prices cut net exports, and the bad weather exacerbated agricultural harvests. Finally, a Junta led by General Augusto Pinochet mounted a military coup, and the majority of people, disgruntled of their failing experiment, did not rise against the coup. Allende was ousted and Pinochet was established as the dictator.

2. Cause: United States CIA¡¯s Constant Sabotage and Interference

   Allende was not a corrupt man, the UP was not ill minded or obsessed with self interest either. The plans the Allende regime presented were feasible enough to be carried out. This seems to contradict the tragic outcome of Chile¡¯s new experiment. This phenomenon would be only explainable if there was a veiled force behind the government¡¯s actions. In this case, the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other secret committees under direct control of President Nixon played an active role of sabotaging Allende¡¯s government. Recently declassified National Security Council records exhibit this fact with detail.

1) Economic, Diplomatic Pressure

 Nixon wanted the Chilean "economy to scream," and therefore prove that socialism could not work in the country. The Chilean economy was heavily dependent on US influence. More than two thirds of its economic aid came from the United States, while Anaconda and Kennecott, which were US companies, owned seventy percent of the Chilean copper industry. The Frei government, which preceded Allende¡¯s, had owed roughly one billion dollars to US banks. By using this influence, and the covert operations of the CIA, the Nixon administration became successful in orchestrating the toppling Chile¡¯s socialist government.

    The biggest problem the Chilean copper industry faced after the UP government¡¯s nationalization was the dramatic fall of the copper price. Some history books refer to this as simple bad luck, but this was engineered by the Nixon administration. According to National Security Decision Memorandum 93 (NSDM 93), a series of measures were implemented in order to destabilize the socialist regime.[2] One of those measures was to dump much of the United States copper stockpiles. This calculated disposal caused a steep fall of copper prices, which struck the Chilean economy with great magnitude. Since the copper industry earned nearly eighty percent of Chile¡¯s exports, this manipulation was a big blow indeed.

    The other problem was the general shortage of virtually everything except the military. The military was under United States provision, therefore did not suffer much. However, the lack of spare parts in essential machinery, cars and trucks, agricultural products, and the subsequent outflow of skilled personnel plunged the economy into chaos. The States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, or the Church Committee, has discovered that American ambassador Edward Korry made it clear that "Not a nut or bolt [will] be allowed to reach Chile under Allende."[3] The United States made the necessary arrangements in order to discredit Chile¡¯s economy by an international method. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) was forced by the rigid stance of the US to bar approval of Chilean loans.[4] The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, or World Bank) did not approve of any loans from 1971 to 1973 to Chile. The considered twenty one million livestock-improvement credit and other loans had been disqualified.[5] Moreover, the Export-Import Bank and Agency for International Development (AID) were given specific "classified instructions" by the NSC. The Export-Import Bank was of crucial importance because the bank provided the loans for purchase of physical capital needed in critical industries. The bank also graded the credibility of economies, which was an important basis for private US companies in trading with Chile. Nevertheless, the Export-Import Bank cut its loans and export guarantees, and lowered the assessment of credibility of Chile from B to D. This nullified the provision of a twenty one million dollar loan to the national airline of Chile for upgrading its jets. Private US companies did not wish to export spare parts of crucial mechanical equipment and automobiles. International lawsuits that were filed against the Allende government by outcasts from the formerly private copper mines had also undermined the trustworthiness of the Chilean economy in the world society. These series of actions all were attributed to the covert works of US officials behind the scene, the Church report states.[6]

    These movements by the Nixon administration reflected its concern on protecting its interests in its private companies like Ford in Chile, and of course in the US dominant copper industry. By applying pressure to the socialist economy, Nixon attempted and succeeded in cancelling the nationalization reform of the UP government.

2) Propaganda and Covert Political Intervention

    The United States pressed Allende with considerable amount of external pressure, but that seemed not enough for a climate suitable for a coup. There was already a failed project named FUBELT. Also organized by the Nixon administration, this attempted to defeat Allende in his 1970 elections by blackmailing and defamation campaign. Feeling that the efforts put in on FUBELT were not enough, domestic disruption was stressed more vigorously by the CIA in its "Covert Action Program for Chile."

    *Political action to divide and weaken the Allende coalition.

    *Maintaining and enlarging contacts in the Chilean military.

    *Providing support to non-Socialist opposition political groups and parties.

    *Assisting certain periodicals and using other media outlets in Chile which can speak out against the Allende government.

    *using selected media outlets [in Latin America, Europe, and elsewhere] to play up Allende¡¯s        subversion of the democratic process and involvement by Cuba and the Soviet union in Chile[7]

    Introduced by the CIA Western Hemisphere chief, William Broe, the Action program requested for a seven million dollar budget. This enormous amount of money was used between 1970 and 1973; 3.5 million of it was used to support opposition parties, 2 million of it was used in propaganda programs which featured the media both domestic and foreign, and the 1.5million of it was used to encourage labor organizations to mount riots and strikes.

    The Christian Democratic Party (PDC) was the leading opposition party against Allende. The Church report claims that the party was actively financed and provided with intelligence. Backed heavily by the CIA, the PDC could now mount demonstrations and advertisements that condemned the socialist reforms. One of those condemnations was that the UP¡¯s policies were notoriously incongruent with Catholic principles. On an education reform that attempted to give equal opportunity, they went on asserting that the UP attempted to destroy the Catholic virtues. Chilean women, who were exceptionally devout Catholics, were easily convinced. The CIA deployed its personnel to perform illegal spy activities in UP election offices. Officials were often bribed to be incompetent, and the extremist groups such as Movimiento Izquierdista Revolucionario (MIR) were angry at the moderate stance the UP government took in dealing with opposition. Chile was a functioning democracy, and therefore Allende could not repress the opposition powers effectively with force. Also, powerful labor organizations were bribed to engage in strikes. Food rations were given out to workers during strikes by the US "advisors." Much of the transportation and overall logistics was constantly under threat by such protests. For instance, the 1973 strike of the Truckers organization almost paralyzed the whole country, and gave a big impression of government mismanagement in the economy. Overall, the political opposition groups against Allende were being extensively promoted by the CIA.

   The CIA had controlled much of the foreign media as well as Chile¡¯s domestic press. The agency actively briefed to the foreign news media on the inefficiency of the socialist policies and the economic, social suffering that plagued the country. There were numerous covert operations that took in Chile as well. Most influential of those was the El Mercurio project. The CIA financed El Mercurio, one of the staunchest right wing newspapers in Chile, from the 1960s. As a socialist became the president of the country, support for the newspaper increased dramatically. The routes of financial support ranged from direct cash deposits to indirect financial support via the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation (ITT), a prominent US company. The paper was full of acrimonious editorials and baseless allegations against the government, but the belligerent voice of the newspaper was augmented enough by foreign support to influence the whole nation. Alarmed, President Allende criticized El Mercurio, but the CIA "orchestrated cables of support and protest from foreign newspapers, a protest statement from an international press association, and world press coverage of the association¡¯s protest," according to the Church Report. Hence, the atmosphere fit for a coup was almost set by 1973.

    All of this contributed to criticisms on the ambitious reforms the UP government had initially proposed. Not to mention the unexpected strikes that occurred in the course of nationalizing key industries, the UP was faced with problems in its extensive agrarian reform.

    The Socialist experiment of Salvador Allende failed as General Augusto Pinochet, assisted covertly by the CIA, mounted a coup on September 11, 1973. Since the only US aid that did not cease but increased was the one on the military, the junta was relatively successful in taking the presidential palace as well as the whole country. Ironically, this happened in the era of Détente, or more elaborated, the ¡®era of negotiation.¡¯

3. In the Chilean Case, the Time of Détente did not Imply ¡®Relaxation¡¯

    The economic, diplomatic, propagandistic, and military pressure the United States put on the Allende regime was not of ordinary magnitude. Only is this overthrow of a democratically elected government understandable if we take the United States¡¯ role into consideration. This buildup of tension may sound contradictory to the depiction of the Détente as the period of reconciliation and compromise. The intention of the Détente was advertised as the step towards peace and coexistence. The Ping Pong diplomacy, extrication from Vietnam, and SALT II all supported such justifications. However, the covert operations that led a democratic country into turmoil and dictatorship we have dealt with in this chapter clearly states that national interest was the first priority for the Nixon administration, not peace or reconciliation. This stance was acknowledgeable in the annual presidential foreign policy report to the congress from 1970 to 1973. However, the media did not expect any nation to fall into prey by these new criteria. National interests seemed no more than a justification to open up China and bring the Soviets to the negotiation table, not sabotage and overthrow a socialist nation.

    Nixon and Kissinger were determined to defend their country¡¯s interest in Latin America, as did their predecessors. They did not want another Cuban revolution to succeed. As stated in the first chapter, the geopolitics in the Northeast Asian region let the Brezhnev doctrine of the Soviets to be modified. This let Nixon go adamant on Allende without having the Soviets in grave concern. So, ¡®linkage¡¯ had taken place according to national interest, which is obviously no deviation from the Détente policy. Chile was not an exception from the foreign policy of the United States in the Détente. It was the veiled essence of it.

    It is arguable that a differentiation should be made between the US interventionism from Détente, since inconsistencies in foreign policy was commonplace in the United States. This leads to the assertion that studying Chile¡¯s case in terms of the Détente is unreasonable. Nevertheless, this, quite paradoxically, is the very reason we should delve into this subject. This paper, dealing the US foreign policies in the period of the Détente, does not focus on the specific policies concerning the Détente only. Therefore, the Chilean case is worthwhile dealing since it reveals what the true force that moved US diplomacy, and how such a force limited the Détente¡¯s application.

IV. The Yushin Order by Park, Chung Hee in South Korea

"The Uninvited Guest to the Détente: South Korea"

    In October 10th, 1972, President Park, Chung Hee of South Korea declared the Yushin Order, or the ¡®revitalization restoration¡¯, as his spokesman described it. The original constitution of the Third Republic (the constitution before the Yushin) and the National Assembly, which was the legislative branch, were dissolved. Instead, the Yushin constitution and the National Convention for Unification (NCU) were established. This changed the presidential elections into an indirect system in which NCU members, 2359 representatives of the nation, elected the President in the Jang-Chung gymnasium in Seoul. A considerable portion of those representatives were ¡®recommended¡¯ by the President, and along with the extended six-year term, Park planned for his life long presidency. However, opposed by violent protests, he resorted to harsh measures, and the consolidation of the nation as a whole was undermined. Eventually, Park was assassinated by the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) director Kim, Jae-Kyu in October 26th, 1979. The Yushin Order, whatsoever, lasted another ten years under President Chun, Doo-Hwan.

1. The Yushin Order

1) Indirect Election System

    The NCU was a means to silence opposition parties and perpetuate Park¡¯s regime. Challenged in his third reelection by Kim, Dae-Jung, Park beat Kim with a very narrow difference of a few hundred thousand votes. Also, given the social incongruity that derived from the massive economic growth and disparate distribution of wealth, the fourth democratic election of Park seemed uncertain. Therefore, in order to extend his reign, Park had to resort to an authoritative measure, and that was the Yushin.

    The authority of the administration soon surpassed that of the legislative and judicial branch. One third of the representatives in the legislative branch were to be practically appointed by the President, and all judicial offices, including the Chief Justice, were nominated by the President. The assessment of the appropriateness of this is contested, but the fact that this concentrated most of the government¡¯s power to the President, and that direct democracy was infringed is undeniable.

2) The Intensified Suppression of the Media and Civil Rights

    The Yushin had infringed much of the fundamental rights of the public. Detention and torture by the KCIA became commonplace, and manipulations in trials were virtually unmonitored by any substantial authority. The KCIA, the Army Security Command, and the president¡¯s bodyguards have mainly conducted this illegal suppression of expressed free will. Chang, Chun Ha, a prominent nationalist, and a staunch opposition figure to the Yushin, stated that he was "seized on his way downtown and taken to a KCIA jail for a week of nearly continuous interrogation, in an unsuccessful effort to persuade him to endorse Park¡¯s marital law reforms." The KCIA interrogation cells had committed various human rights violations including the "Korean barbecue" in which the victims were "strung up by their wrists and ankles and spread-eagled over a flame." Protests, of course, were widespread in universities and other liberal organizations; however, such fervor was kept down by the rigid suppression of the police and frequent "emergency measures" that installed martial law to the country.[8]

    Press censorship became more strict and widespread. Books that were believed to contain "inappropriate" material for the regime were banned. Most liberal newspapers had been closed or were stripped of their articles. The media was forced to always praise the deeds of the administration.

3) Arms Buildup, Seek for Military Technology

    Independent national defense became a priority. The Republic of Korea (ROK), under such a strong leadership, was able to double its defense expenditures for several years in the 1970s. The Yulgok Project, a series of policies aimed for the independent defense system and local production of weapons, was legislated and executed.[9] Park also concentrated on the advance of independent defense technology. The National Defense and Science Institute was funded heavily by the government. In 1973, Park called ethnic Korean scientists and specialists residing abroad into the country in order to realize his development plans. This effort produced an armament race between the two Koreas.

4) Exertion for the South Korean Nuclear Weapons Program

    Starting from 1972, Park started a secret development plan for a South Korean nuclear weapons program. The president worked with France in order to facilitate his operation. By 1974, the Korean-French collaboration produced the technical design of a plant to manufacture about twenty kilograms of fissionable plutonium per year, enough for two nuclear weapons with the explosive power of the atomic bomb that the United States dropped on Hiroshima. US intelligence was concerned of such endeavors, and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger acknowledged the gravity of the issue. In a secret cable to the US embassy in Korea, Kissinger pointed out that the nuclear capabilities of the South Koreans would bring a "major destabilizing effect in an area which not only Japan but USSR, PRC and ourselves (United States) are directly involved." After some time passed for assuring the necessary evidence, ambassador Sneider was instructed to object to the ROK government in July of 1975.[10] Negotiations continued, and as a result, despite the efforts put in by the Park administration, the South Korean nuclear weapons program was neutralized by the United States.

2. The Justification to Yushin- the Distrust towards its Ally

    The reason why Park enforced the Yushin is a subject of dispute. The justification Park made was that the international diplomatic situation was turning hostile to ROK, and that the North Koreans were constantly planning on an invasion. The criticism some scholars make is that Park simply used this as an excuse in order to realize his ambition of life-long dictatorship. Although it is questionable to indicate the sole cause of Yushin as diplomatic, and despite that it could even be possible that the threat of Détente was not that considerable at all, it is justifiable that the Détente did play a role in actual South Korean politics. Regardless of the real seriousness, Park used this as his propaganda. Therefore, it is appropriate to acknowledge the intimidating characteristic of the Ping Pong diplomacy, or the US-China Détente.

1) Nixon Doctrine and the Shanghai Communiqué

    The Nixon Doctrine was principally aimed at two regions: Vietnam and Korea. The United States wanted to step out of both scenes by blurring its support "in cases involving non-nuclear aggression." Ho Chi Minh and Kim Il Sung did not posses nuclear weapons, and therefore the Nixon doctrine claimed the military support in these areas as not imperative. The only difference between the two was the magnitude of withdrawal. In Vietnam, this was executed quite thoroughly, while in ROK, only a part of the armed forces were withdrawn.

    Along with this move, the overall tension in East Asia was to be relieved by the agreements made in the Shanghai Communiqué, which was done as a part of Nixon¡¯s ¡®linkage¡¯ strategy. According to the communiqué, the two countries would not attempt to seek hegemony in Asia, and would repel any attempts by another power to do so. China¡¯s implementation of this proclamation was done by facilitating US negotiation with the North Vietnamese, and cutting down military, diplomatic support to the North Koreans. The US responded by extricating their forces from its turbulent areas. In addition to this, Nixon accepted the ¡®One China¡¯ theory of the PRC, and thus supported the PRC to join the United Nations. This resulted in the coerced withdrawal of Taiwan, or Chinese Taipei.

    The number of ROK armed forces dispatched to Vietnam, roughly 320,000, was only second to the United States. South Korea received considerable economic aid from the US in exchange of its participation in the war, but financial factors did not count for the entire reason Park wanted to sacrifice the lives of Korean soldiers in foreign soil. The other reason was the ideological one. The violent struggle against communism the South Vietnamese were engaged in made the South Koreans feel empathy about the issue. Therefore, saving Vietnam from the scourge of war and driving out the influence of communism may have been viewed as an indispensable duty to the South Koreans. This kind of analogy was similarly applied to Taiwan, whose people were facing their ponderous communist foe as well. The subsequent fall of the anti communist forces in East Asia slowly came as a diplomatic pressure to the ROK.

2) Lack of Reassurance from the United States

    In the process of this turbulent diplomatic situation, Park wanted a reassurance of the ROK-US alliance. He wanted the United States to continuously provide the necessary military assistance that was taking place in ROK since the Korean War. However, several sources informed Park of Nixon¡¯s orders in November of 1969 to Kissinger to draft a plan to reduce half of the army in ROK. Since the proclamation of the Nixon doctrine, the ROK government was constantly informally briefed of this kind of movement in US foreign policy. In March of 1970, the Nixon administration devised a plan to remove one division of the US army from ROK, instructing Ambassador William Porter to negotiate with the Park administration. This was made public in 9th of July, and South Korea requested for the modernization of 16 ROK divisions in return. Furthermore, it requested that the United States modernize South Korean armaments and continue a prolonged military assistance.

    The two sides negotiated on the issue and reached an agreement in February 6th, 1971, that consisted of the withdrawal of the US 7th division, the five-year plan of the modernization of the ROK armed forces, and a 1.5 billion dollar military assistance.

    This agreement, however, was hindered by the US congress defense budget curtailment. Moreover, the fact that China requested the complete removal of US forces from the Korean peninsula in a secret meeting intimidated the Park administration. The ROK government demanded the US for a thorough security assurance and a stable alliance, but Nixon was not prepared to match such requirements.

    Therefore, Park reported such changes to his people. He furthermore used this as the justification for the Yushin. Critics of Park say that he used this as a mere excuse, but that still does not releases the United States from the responsibility of providing the cause for such an excuse. Perhaps by exaggerating the threat from the North, and by again overly emphasizing the unfriendly diplomatic situation at the time, Park may have overreacted to the Détente. On the other hand, the international breeze of Détente that undermined the alliance with its biggest supporter, along with the relatively inferior defense capabilities of the ROK military compared to that of the North, was sufficient to be a significant threat. In any case, it is irrefutable that the Détente has played a considerable role in the establishment and justification of the Yushin.

3. In the South Korean case, the Period of Détente did not Imply ¡®Relaxation¡¯

    The series of actions the Park administration exhibited in the 1970s was discordant with the relaxation that was going on by the United States and the PRC. Commonly referred to as the Ping Pong diplomacy, the opening of China and the compromise between the two powers seemed to lessen the tension in both the South and North Asian regions. Nonetheless, this was not the case in the Korean peninsula. The barely surviving system of democracy was finally toppled, and dictatorship was installed. Domestically, press censorships were strengthened, and violence in controlling opposition leaders and student protests became far severe. Diplomatically, the country advocated its self-reliant defense system and engaged in an arms race with North Korea (the Democratic People¡¯s Republic of Korea). Development of a nuclear weapons program caused discomfort with its supposedly most intimate ally, the United States. Détente, again, did not come as a relieving factor, but a destabilizing one.

V. Conclusion

1. Limits of the Détente

    This paper has so far focused on the effect of the Détente policy of the United States on Chile and South Korea. It has proved that the foreign policies of the Détente were not entirely policies of relaxation. Rather, these quite sudden changes were strictly about national interest, and therefore, were limited to cases in which US interest was involved.

    Nixon and Kissinger, fairly better in their diplomatic skills compared to their predecessors of the Containment, noticed that diplomatic idealism that led the nation through the World Wars and through the ¡®era of confrontation¡¯ was no longer favorable for the good of their country at that time. Such idealism fostered unnecessary arms competition, chained the country with the fetters of the Vietnam War, and risked the lives of many Americans. Protests became common in universities, and the public urged for a reconsideration of the diplomatic position their country assumed.

    Nixon was there to guide the country to discard idealism and to focus on realism. This made it possible for opening and dialogues with their vowed communist foes, and by the Linkage, this has contributed to a substantial stability within the Cold War.

    On the other hand, diplomatic realism also enabled the US to withdraw its influence from ROK, creating uneasiness in the Korean peninsula. This also led the US take advantage of the mitigated Brezhnev Doctrine and to expand its influence in Chile, also creating suffering. That could be very well pointed out as the limitations of the Détente.

    Enlightening us with an insight of the real mechanism of diplomacy in the period of Détente, these veiled facts are fairly more revealing than the common textbook description of the Détente. Of course, it is impossible to be absolute or complete in dealing with history. Nevertheless, it is our duty as contemporary world citizens to acknowledge how the forces of the past have shaped our society as present. This paper has done its best to widen such perspectives.

VI. References

1. Primary Source

The Church Committee, 1975:¡¡Church Committee, or The Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities (Chairman: Frank Church): Covert Action in Chile 1963-1973, Washington D.C.: United States Senate, 1975. <>

2. Secondary Sources

Bizzaro, 1972: Salvatore Bizzaro, Historical Dictionary of Chile, New Jersey: The Scarecrow Press, 1972.

Blum, 1995: William Blum, Killing Hope- US Military and CIA Interventions since World War II, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1995.

Brinkley, 2005: Alan Brinkley (translation by Hwang, Hye-Sung), The Unfinished Nation, Seoul: Humanist, 2005.

Collier, 1996: Simon Collier, William F. Sater, A History of Chile 1808-1994, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Kissinger, 1994: Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy, New York: SIMON&SCHUSTER, 1994.

Kennedy, 2002: David M. Kennedy, Lizabeth Cohen, Thomas A. Bailey, The American Pageant, United States: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2002.

Kornbluh, 2003: Peter Kornbluh, The Pinochet File –A declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability, New York: New Press, 2003.

Kwon, 2004: Kwon, Sanghoon, et al., "South Korean Defense Policy and Issues Facing Civil Society": February 3rd, 2004.


Landman, 2004:¡¡Todd Landman, Dictatorships and Double Standards Revisited: US Foreign Policy in Chile, Essex: Human Rights Centre, 2004.

Ma, 2003:¡¡Ma, Sang-Yoon, Security, Democracy and Park Chung Hee¡¯s Road: The Origins of the Yushin System Revisited, Republic of Korea: The Korean Association of International Studies, 2003.

Oberdorfer, 2001: Don Oberdorfer, The Two Koreas, Indianapolis: Basic Books (1997) Revised Edition 2001.

Skidmore, 2001:¡¡Thomas E. Skidmore, Peter H. Smith, Modern Latin America, New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Park, 1988: Park, Se-Gil, Rewritten South Korean Contemporary History(2): from truce to the assassination of president Park, Seoul: Dol BaeGae, 1988.

Seo, 2001:¡¡Seo, Joon-Seok, Modern Korean History, Seoul: Woongjin, 2005.

Lee, 2003: Lee, Heung Hwan, 35 Moments of Contemporary South Korean History Viewed by US Secret Documents, Seoul: Sam-in, 2003.



[1] Kissinger (1994) p.708

[2] Kissinger (1994) p.708

[3] Blum (1995) p.211

[4] Kornbluh (2003) p.83

[5] Ibid. p.64

[6] The Church Committee (1975) p.42

[7] Kornbluh (2003) p.87

[8] Oberdorfer (2001) p.41,p.42

[9] Kwon (2004) p.10

[10] Oberdorfer (2001) p.69

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