Maj. Gen. John K. Singlaub's fellow officers here are saying privately that they agree with Singlaub's claim that President Carter's plan to withdraw U.S. troops from South Korea will lead to war.
"Everyone here thinks what he said was right," said one officer at head quarters of U.S. forces in Korea.
But the officers are refusing to make their feelings known publicly for fear they will suffer a fate similar to Singlaub, who was summoned home abruptly for a meeting with Carter at the White House.
(In Washington today, Carter issued a statement apparently designed to let North Korea know the dispute over the phaseout of U.S. troops in South Korea would not create military opportunities for the North.)
(In a statement given by White House Press Secretary Jody Powell, Carter said: "Any potential aggressor should have no doubt about the steadfasteness of our commitment to maintaining peace and stability in that region and our commitment to the Republic of Korea.")
Carter's recall of Singlaub has stunned sympathetic fellow officers in Seoul, according to reliable sources. The action was interpreted as a sign of the commander-in-chief's determination to halt a spate of skeptical statements on the pullout of U.S. generals in Korea.
Singlaub's own commander, Gen. John W. Vessey Jr., head of United Nations forces in South Korea, said essentially the same thing April 30 in an interview with United Press International.
"In my view the withdrawal of all the American ground troops would raise the possibility of war in Korea," Vessey said.
But the commander qualified his remarks by saying they were the view of an on-scene commander and the recognized that the President was required to have an overall political view and that should prevail.
Singlaub, who is expected to meet with Carter today, was reportedly prepared to stand by his views on the inadvisibility of the President's policy, but ready to apologize for casuing a fuss."
Sources in the command describe Singlaub as an honest, popular and plain-spoke man who became frustrated at his inability to find satisfactory answers for Korean military friends questioning the U.S. pullout.
Worried South Korean military men constantly raise the issue, the sources said, adding that the general wanted to contribute to what he understood was a still-evolving policy and had no intention to undermine the President.
Senior officers are hoping for Singlaub's return to his posts as chief of staff here and senior member of the military armistice commission that negotiates with the North Koreans at Panmunjom.
However, it is generally felt that Singlaub's remarks were over-stated and badly timed. The President's special envoys - Philip C. Habib, undersecretary of state for political affairs, and Gen. George brown, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff - are due in Seoul Tuesday to consult with South Korean ministers on the pull-out.
One U.S. source believed Washington reaction to Singlaub's protest might cause the plan "to be rammed down the military's throat."
In a press release after Singlaub's departure from Seoul. Vessey confirmed the command's willingness to "carry out in the highest traditions of the U.S. armed forces the mission assigned by the commander-in-chief, President Carter."
Vessey called Singlaub "a professional soldier with a distinguished combat record."
"There should be no mistaking that he will carry out faithfully and fully the policies assigned by superiors."
The statement outlined the constitutional principle that gives civilians control of the American military. It stressed Carter's promise that the phase down will not endanger the security of South Korea.
The United Nations Command information office that released Vessey's statement answered "no comment" to all questions concerning Singlaub's recall.
The episode is regarded as ending further public criticism by dissenting generals. Reliable sources re-emphasized today that the Carter adminstration has not succeeded is dispelling the serious reservations held by many high-ranking military officers over the phaseout of U.S. ground forces within 4 to 5 years.
These officers do not understand the rationale for removing a deterrent force with a proven ability to keep peace in Korea, the sources said. Nor are they convinced that Carter's compensatory measures - upgrading of the Korean armed forces and reinforcement of the U.S. Air Force squadrons in Korea - will deter North Korean President Kim II Sung from again invading the south.
Singlaub's blunt prediction that the withdrawal will lead to war was splashed across the front pages of all Korean newspapers and received heavy TV and radio coverage today.
The semi-official Kyunghyang Daily news ran a bannered story likening Singlaub's recall to President Harry S. Truman's preemptory firing of Gen. Douglas MacArthur during the Korean war.
In a 34-year army career, Singlaub established an outstanding combat record as an unconventional warfare specialist and held a succession of high staff posts before starting his second Korean tour in July, 1976.