795B.5 MSP/9–2054: Telegram

The Ambassador in Korea (Briggs) to the Department of State

top secret

324. Repeated information Tokyo 210. Department please pass Defense. Tokyo for CINCUNC. Subject is ROK relations with Japan as essential element US-ROK relations and US position Northeast Asia.

Since sending Embtel 316, September 18,1 repeated Tokyo 202 and Embtel 320, September 19,2 repeated Tokyo 205, I have received Deptel 204,3 repeated Tokyo 610, September 18. Purpose this message is first to urge instructions re Japan (last paragraph Deptel 204) be greatly strengthened to point of informing President Rhee while minute of Washington understanding is still pending that unless he repairs relations with Japan proposed US aid program will not go forward on scale now envisaged, and second to consider next moves if Rhee rejects our representations.

Although I have sought in series of messages since my return last month to describe situation as result Rhee’s campaign of misrepresentation and abuse, I recognize how difficult it may be to recreate in Washington impression of deliberately poisoned atmosphere which Rhee has produced in Korea following his American visit. Hardly day passes without some local statement calculated to mislead Korean people or misinterpret pending questions, or as in case of Japan deliberately to produce friction. As I have also reported this campaign has included attacks on Secretary Dulles as being personally pro-Japanese. (In addition, notwithstanding facts disclosed to him and his military advisors, Rhee is busy right now organizing nation-wide campaign against US redeployment; it has explosive possibilities and can easily get out of hand (for example, see General Choi’s public statement this date, TWX dating P 200600Z).)

Aside from unpleasant aspects of current situation (which does not augur well for Rhee’s acceptance of minute of understanding) everything we are trying to accomplish in this part of world is being jeopardized by Rhee’s present conduct including his anti-Japanese agitation. I urge therefore that repairing ROK relations with Japan be declared to Rhee in unequivocal terms as a “must” and that accordingly there be prepared separate agreement for submission to Rhee simultaneous with other documentation. Furthermore, I question whether it would be desirable [Page 1886] to suggest (as indicated at end Deptel 204) there be discussion of “substantive issues with parties before any new meetings”. From here it would appear more practicable and less likely play into Rhee’s hands to establish clear timetable to which Rhee would be committed. For example (1) Japanese withdrawal by [of?] Kubota statement4 to be followed immediately (same day) by (2) US announcement of appointment of mediator on whose arrival in Far East on specified date meetings between accredited ROK and Japanese representatives would be resumed, and (3) joint (or separate simultaneous) ROK-Japanese announcement confirming (2). In other words, if we leave Rhee any ambiguity he will probably use it to render resumption of negotiations more difficult.

To sum up: Our bargaining power with Rhee lies principally in his desire for aid program, especially military program. Once we commit ourselves to him on that program, without having required him to settle issues with Japan, possibility of doing so later will be correspondingly reduced.

As to what we should do if Rhee refuses all this and in effect tells us to go jump in Potomac with aid program attached, I think our initial public position should be objective and unconcerned: “Here it is. If you want it, fine. If not, we’ll be on about our business”.

Behind scenes however I recommend we get busy. Although Rhee has dominated stage to exclusion lesser personalities there are elements in ROK considerably less intemperate. They lack public support and capacity to act at present but they exist and are known to us. When word gets around (and we can see to it that it does get around) that $700 million aid program including buildup ROK Forces is being rejected, impact should be considerable. People of ROK, in contrast to Rhee, know they are infinitely better off today than one year ago and there is no popular demand for resumption hostilities.

Finally, this altercation with Rhee has been brewing ever since we insisted on resumption armistice negotiations in April last year. We have foreseen difficulties would probably multiply once Geneva conference ended (or as it turned out, after Rhee’s US trip failed renew war for unification). Issues are now joined on plane of US national interest and I see no profit in seeking evade or postpone them.

  1. In this telegram, Briggs reported that Pyun had stated that the ROK was prepared to resume negotiations with the Japanese concerning ROK-Japanese differences. (694.95B/9–1854)
  2. In this telegram, Briggs suggested that it would be good tactics if the United States did not appear too eager to entreat the Rhee government to accept the $700 million U.S. aid program. (795B.5 MSP/9–1954)
  3. Supra.
  4. On Oct. 15, 1953, Kanichiro Kubota, the head of the Japanese Delegation charged with negotiating with a Korean counterpart a settlement of Japanese-Korean differences, made references which the Koreans interpreted as insulting to their national character. Regarding the Kubota statement, see volume XIV.