895.01/56: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in China ( Gauss )

199. Reference your telegram no. 12, January 3, 3 p.m. On February 10 [12] the Department requested the Embassy at London12 to inform the British Government that this Government has been approached by various Korean groups in this country interested in independence and participation in war effort; that, although this Government desires to obtain all active support possible of opponents, of the Axis, we are not at this time contemplating “recognizing” any organization of Koreans as the primary movement for Korean opposition [Page 863] to Japanese oppression or making any commitment as to future recognition of Korea; that we were giving thought to the possibility of issuing some general statement to the press expressing the interest of this Government in the efforts of the Korean people to end Japanese oppression; and that we should be pleased to receive the views of the British Government in regard to this whole question.

On February 28 the British Foreign Office handed to the Embassy a memorandum13 which was, in part, to the effect that there were not enough Koreans in the United Kingdom to form an organization; that after the outbreak of war Mr. Tjo So Wang and representatives of other Korean organizations at Chungking made approaches to the British Embassy there similar to those made to the American Embassy; that the British Ambassador14 gained the impression that there was considerable disunity in the Korean ranks and was told by the Chinese Ministry for Foreign Affairs that, although the Koreans in free China were aiming at independence, they differed widely in their politics; that Chinese authorities found them useful for anti-Japanese activities but declared that there could be no question of any sort of recognition of a free Korean movement until factional differences were composed, to which end they were lending their good offices; that the British Foreign Office believed that the possibilities of effective Korean opposition to Japan in Japan itself and in Korea were very small, although in Manchuria and occupied China the possibilities were perhaps greater; that as long as the present successes of Japan continue any formal declaration or act of recognition on the part of the United States or United Kingdom would be unlikely to arouse a response on any effective scale among Koreans generally in areas under Japanese control; that when the tide turned against the Japanese, however, a well-timed declaration might produce results; that for the present the Foreign Office considers that the reply to further approaches from Koreans outside Japanese areas should be confined to assurances of sympathy with efforts toward the realization of Korean aspirations for national freedom; that this was the attitude adopted by the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs15 in a letter addressed on October 25 last to Yong Jeung Kim;16 that, in view of the interest of the Chinese Government in Korean matters, it might be well to concert with that Government any action tending toward recognition; and that the British Foreign [Page 864] Office would be glad to support any action the Department might eventually decide to take in the Korean question.

The Department is informing the British Foreign Office17 that the British Government’s views as indicated in the memorandum coincide in general with those of this Government. The attention of the British Foreign Office is being brought to a statement which I made at my press conference on March 2 (see Radio Bulletin no. 5118).

The Department would appreciate any comment on your part which you think might be helpful to the Department in regard to the Korean question. Specifically will you give us your opinion as to the advisability of this Department’s issuing in the near future a general statement expressing the interest of the American people in the efforts of the Koreans to end Japanese oppression? As you may have been informed, there recently was held here in Washington a “Korean Liberty Conference” sponsored by the United Korean Committee in America and the Korea American Council, organizations affiliated with the Chungking group, to publicize the Korean question and urge “recognition” of Korea. Although the attendance of Koreans was small and reportedly only partially representative of the Korean community in this country and although the agenda apparently did not include consideration of positive measures which Koreans might take looking toward the achieving of their independence or their participation in the war effort, the conference served in some degree to focus public attention on the question of Korean “recognition”. In addition this group is making an effort to develop American public opinion toward urging American recognition and a considerable amount of publicity for their views is being obtained in various parts of the United States.

In such conversations as you may have with the Chinese Government on this matter you may in your discretion use such parts of the information contained in the foregoing paragraphs as you may think appropriate.

  1. Telegram No. 552, February 12, midnight, to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom, not printed.
  2. Quoted by the Ambassador in the United Kingdom in his telegram No. 962, February 28, 3 p.m., not printed.
  3. Sir Archibald J. K. Clark Kerr.
  4. Quo Tai-chi.
  5. Member of the Executive Committee of the Korean National Association of North America.
  6. Telegram No. 1172, March 20, 10 p.m., to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom, not printed.
  7. Department of State Radio Bulletin No. 51, March 2, reported the pertinent part of the Acting Secretary’s press conference as follows:

    “Correspondent said Korean Liberty Conference meeting in Washington had expressed desire to adhere to United Nations pact and he wondered if it would be possible to indicate Department’s attitude toward this movement and its adherence to declaration and those of other free movements in country. Mr. Welles replied that in general terms he viewed Conference and meetings of other organizations of all other free groups with utmost sympathy but that he knew correspondents would understand there are many problems involved in each particular movement and each particular meeting of that character and for the moment he could only say that whole question including the particular inquiry made is receiving consideration and from time to time we will probably make some announcements.”