332. Telegram From the Embassy in Japan to the Department of State1

1947. Ref: Deptel 1635.2 ROK-Japan Settlement.

We feel now is more favorable time for settlement than we shall see again before 1965 at earliest. Quite apart from our belief that ability of new Korean Government to push through settlement will tend to decrease rather than increase with time, ratification of settlement before June adjournment of Diet offers best chance in Japan. If this opportunity missed, Diet recess together with Olympic fever would put off serious Diet consideration of settlement until 1965 at earliest. Meanwhile, July elections for LDP presidency would add new note of doubt. Ikeda has fully committed himself to settlement and [garble] political skill needed to carry it through smoothly. While reelection of Ikeda seems probable, if Sato succeeded Ikeda in July though he would be equally eager for settlement, he might find it harder to win ratification because of greater disunity within LDP. If Kom, who has been showing increasing strength as candidate to replace Ikeda, were to be successor, outcome would be even more problematical since his attitude on many matters is not clear.

If ratification before July is necessary, time is running out. FonOff tells us that, after basic political agreement reached, two months will be required for drafting and then three months for Diet consideration. This perhaps too generous timetable would call for agreement before end of January, but we estimated agreement will be necessary by early March at latest if we are to catch present high tide.

We see little we can do at Tokyo end to speed settlement. GOJ is perfectly aware of all points stated above and of intense US interest in settlement. Ikeda and Ohira have skillfully led Japanese public into accepting normalization as only common sense and consequently determined [Page 746] Socialist opposition will probably not cause major problem. GOJ has consistently made clear during negotiations what it considers negotiable and what not, we believe it will not retreat from 12-mile limit.3 Nor would it be consistent with basic US policy for us to try to persuade it to. GOJ has shown flexibility on other issues and recently has proposed that fisheries negotiations be moved to Seoul to have Korean delegation near source of its instructions and thus speed up talks.

From here it appears that bars to settlement are on Korean end. Superficial one is unrealistic effort to avoid 12-mile limit. More basic problem is hostility of Korean public to Japan and therefore political danger for a government that makes settlement. This admittedly makes settlement terribly difficult, but unless we find way to help Koreans surmount this problem, we may miss tide, which may not rise this high again for some time.

Conceivably ROK Government has idea that time is on their side (e.g., that Sato will be Prime Minister and will give them better deal than Ikeda). If so, it might be helpful for us to disabuse them of such notions and point out clearly our estimate that failure to get settlement now would result in long delay with no prospect of any better terms from Japan in future.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 33–4 JAPAN–KOR S. Confidential. Repeated to Seoul and CINCPAC for POLAD.
  2. In telegram 1635 to Tokyo, December 30, 1963, also sent to Seoul as telegram 566, the Department of State transmitted information concerning new supporting-assistance levels to Korea for FY 1964, intended to urge a Korean settlement with Japan, and asked the Embassy in Tokyo to provide an update on where the issue stood in Japan. (Ibid., POL 33–4 JAPAN–S KOR)
  3. Reference is to the extent of Korean territorial waters.