Hon. L. B. Pearson (Secretary of Slate for External Affairs):
Mr. Speaker, I should like at this time to make a short statement on armistice negotiations in Korea. Members of the house will have seen that the communist negotiators at Panmunjom have turned down the proposal of General Ridgway, the United Nations commander in Korea, to solve the outstanding points of dispute in the Korean armistice negotiations. The proposal was, first, to exchange approximately 70,000 Korean and Chinese prisoners for the 12,000 Korean and United Nations personnel whom the communists state they are now holding as prisoners; secondly, to accept communist nominations of Poland and Czechoslovakia for membership on the neutral nations supervisory
commission in exchange for communist acceptance of the United Nations nominations of Sweden and Switzerland, and thirdly, to omit from the provisions of the armistice any reference to the reconstruction and rehabilitation of airfields. This offer was put forward as representing the utmost limits to which the United Nations command could go in making concessions and was intended to be considered as a whole rather than to be the subject of piecemeal bargaining.
Careful and individual examination of the approximately 132,000 prisoners held by the United Nations command has revealed that about 70,000 would accept repatriation. Sixty-two thousand have indicated that they would forcibly resist any United Nations effort to repatriate them.
I am sure hon. members will agree with me when I say that in the circumstances it is unthinkable that the United Nations forces in Korea should undertake the invidious task of forcing these men to return to communist rule. The United Nations command can obviously make no concession on this point other than to allow the communists to have the 62,000 men interviewed either by a neutral body or by joint Red Cross teams from both sides in order to satisfy themselves that these individuals have made their decisions of their own free will and not under compulsion. This the United Nations command has offered to allow, and in doing so has given a convincing demonstration of its good faith in the matter.
In nominating Sweden and Switzerland and accepting the communist nominations of Poland and Czechoslovakia for the neutral nations supervisory commission, the United Nations command has been scrupulously fair to the communists. What the United Nations command would not do was to accept the communist nomination of the Soviet union itself -to a body which is described as the neutral nations supervisory commission.
The United Nations command has also agreed that the armistice provisions will not make any reference to the reconstruction or rehabilitation of airfields but this was done only after considerable heart-searching. I think so important a concession is another proof ^positive of the genuineness of the desire for an armistice on the United Nations side.
I am sure that all members of this house will regret profoundly the communist refusal
of this offer that could have brought an end to the fighting in Korea on terms that would have been fair and would not have betrayed the principles of the United Nations charter which governed the original intervention. We must hope that the communists may even now reconsider their refusal. We must also hope that, notwithstanding this refusal, there will be no need for a resumption of full-scale hostilities. If such resumption should take place, with all its unforeseen consequences, the communists would have to accept full responsibility.
Subtopic: NATIONS AND COMMUNIST REPRESENTATIVES