20. Editorial Note

On August 31, 1964, Korean Foreign Minister Yi Tong-won presented to Ambassador Brown an aide-memoire proposing a Foreign Ministers conference to be held in Seoul in April 1965 warranted by the “changing situation in Southeast Asia [that] has increased need for promotion of friendship and cooperation of free nations in area.” The Foreign Ministers of Australia, the Republic of China, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand, and South Vietnam, as well as Japan, if the attendees desired, were to be invited. The Koreans envisaged the conference serving to “maintain peace and prosperity in Asia, strengthen region’s defense against Communist subversion, consolidate friendly ties, and promote economic and cultural cooperation.” The Foreign Office also believed the conference would enhance support within Korea for a settlement with Japan as well as enhance the international prestige [Page 44] of the Republic of Korea. (Telegram 197 from Seoul, August 31, and airgram A–135 from Seoul, September 1; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 7 KOR S) Initially the Department of State expressed misgivings about the feasibility of the proposal because of vagueness surrounding the purpose of the conference, doubt about the Foreign Minister’s ability to organize and focus the conference, and uncertainty about the willingness of the invited countries to attend. (Telegram 196 to Seoul, September 1; ibid.)

After further consideration the Department responded that the conference could achieve positive results by fostering stronger ties among the Asian nations friendly to the United States and the Western powers, enhancing a sense of solidarity among the participants, and reducing the isolation of the Republic of Korea. (Telegram 434 to Seoul, November 18; ibid.) The Embassy in Seoul agreed in general, but believed the conference could be successful only if attended by most or all the invited Foreign Ministers. Ambassador Brown suggested that the Republic of Korea would support efforts by the United States to urge all countries to attend. (Telegram 494 from Seoul, November 24; ibid.)

On December 4 the Department of State informed the Embassy in Seoul and the other relevant Asian countries of its support for the proposed Foreign Ministers Conference. After stating the potential objectives of the meeting—strengthening intra-Asian relations, strengthening Korea’s international position, reducing the feelings of isolation within Korea and the Republic of China—the Department provided a list of topics that could be fruitfully addressed at the conference: “1) security against Communist military threat”; “2) insurgency and counter-insurgency, including security, economic, social and psychological countermeasures”; “3) economic development”; and “4) expansion of regional collaboration in diplomatic, economic and perhaps other spheres.” The Department suggested that Ambassador Brown discuss those points and other aspects of the conference with the Korean Foreign Minister. (Telegram 485 to Seoul, December 4; ibid.)

Within a few days, Ambassador Brown had spoken to officials in the Foreign Office and informed Washington of Korea’s ideas about the conference, of its receptivity to the Department’s suggested topics and agenda, and similar matters. (Telegram 511 from Seoul, December 8; ibid.) As a result, the Department notified the Embassy in Seoul and in the Asian countries expected to participate in the conference of its renewed support for the conference. Although it did “not wish to get out in front or to appear to be promoting this conference,” the Department suggested that U.S. support for the meeting be made known and steps taken to ensure participation by as many countries as possible. (Telegram 497 to Seoul and repeated to other Asian capitals, December 10; ibid.)