The House International Relations Committee yesterday unanimously approved a resolution warning South Korea that the House is prepared to cut off economic aid if the Seoul government fails to provide sworn testimony from a former ambassador.
By 31 to 0, the committee agreed to compromise language that backs a request by Leon Jaworski, special counsel to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, to try to compel the testimony of making cash payments to as many as 10 current House members.
The implied threat in the non binding resolution is not as strong as one first sought by jaworski, but his deputy, Peter A. White, said after the vote that it was adequate to "send the message."
Kim was ambassador to Washington from 1967 to 1973, and as such is protected by diplomatic immunity from having to testify.
Jaworski said he wanted Kim to waive that protection voluntarily. But the State Department opposed the resolution on the grounds that the threat to cut off aid violates the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations.
The House leadership plans to bring the resolution to a floor vote under rules that require a two-thirds majority for passage, aides said. The next scheduled "suspension calendar" is June 5, but it is possible to ask for a special suspension of the rules.
The warning to Korea already has the backing of the House leadership of both parties and the members of the investigating committee, so it is expected to pass easily.
But it is not at all clear that the Korean government will make Kim available, even in the face of a threat of losing $59 million in Food for Peace and Peace Corps funds.
Kim Su-doc, a spokesman for the embassy here, diclined comment on the committee action yesterday, except to refer to a previous statement that his government could not agree to Jaworski's demands for Kim Dong Jo's testimony.
In that May 10 statement, the embassy said that "bringing a former ambassador to be interrogated and to make statements under oath is universally acknowledged to be a violation of international law as well as of accepted international practices." Jaworski's request, that statement said, would be a "dangerous precedent".
The State Department took a similar position opposing Jaworski's planned linkage of foreign aid and cooperation in the investigation during a hearing on the resolution Tuesday.
And yesterday spokesman Tom Reston repeated the department's concern.
He expressed "regret" that the committee passed the resolution, saying, "The use of implied pressure and sanctions to compel a sovereign government to waive its rights under the Vienna Convention" violates that charter on diplomatic relations.
In addition, diplomatic officals familiar with the efforts to obtain Kim's testimony said yesterday that the Koreans now view the issue as a test of their will. If Seoul gives in to the Amrican demand, it is felt, other nations will label the Koreans "puppets" of the United States.
Rep. Clement J. Zablocki (D-Wis.), chairman of the compromise resolution, said after the vote yesterday that he expected some kind of response from the South Koreans before the House votes on foreign aid appropriations in the next few weeks.
If the Koreans refuse to make Kim available to carry out its threat, the House would have to pass some language prohibiting money in the bill from being spent for nonmilitary aid to Korea. The Senate would also have to approve such language.
Several members of the International Relations Committee expressed concern about linking foreign aid to Kim's testimony during debate on the resolution.
Rep. Donald J. Pease (D-Ohio) said the resolution was like holding a gun to the head of the Koreans. Rep. Jonathan B. Bingham (D-N.Y.) suggested the Navy might want to send a cruiser over to Korea in the old-fashioned way of a big nation imposing its will on a smaller one."
But in the end, itwas clear the members of the committee were more concerned about Jaworski's warning that the public would perceive inaction as a sign that Congress was unwilling to clean its own House.
Several members referred to the "could of suspicion" the Korean scandal has generated. Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.), a respected member of the committee, who is also a member of the investigating committee, led the push for sending a strong message to Seoul, and worked on the compromise that became the final resolution.
Rep. John H. Buchanan Jr. (R-Ala.), another supporter of strong language, said he saw the final resolution as a "plea" to an ally rather than as a threat.