338. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Japan-Korea Normalization Agreement


  • Ryuji Takeuchi, Ambassador of Japan
  • Masao Kanazawa, Political Counselor
  • The Secretary
  • Robert W. Barnett, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs
  • Robert A. Fearey, Acting Deputy Director for East Asian Affairs

The Secretary said that he had invited Ambassador Takeuchi in to express again our very great interest in a Japan-Korea normalization agreement. He had left his conversations with Prime Minister Ikeda and President Pak with the strong impression that both really wanted agreement and believed that recent developments were conducive to finalization of an agreement in time to permit ratification during the present Diet session. Both capitals might think we were pressing hard but the advantages of a settlement for all of us are so great that as agreement appeared in sight “one could almost taste it”. The Secretary said that he would appreciate the Ambassador’s passing on to Foreign Minister Ohira the importance we attach to conclusion of the agreement this spring if at all possible. Noting that he had made the same points to Ambassador Kim,2 the Secretary asked if Ambassador Takeuchi had any late information on the progress of the negotiations.

Ambassador Takeuchi said that he had received a cable the previous day responding to his request for such information. Claims were considered the main issue on the Korean side, and the GOJ felt strongly it had done its best. The next most important problem was fisheries. The GOJ is ready to negotiate but wants more progress at the working level on the technical problems involved before raising the matter to the political level as the Koreans appear to desire. Progress had appeared possible until about a month ago when the Korean side began to show itself unwilling to move ahead in the technical negotiations, and instead to push for a political settlement. The GOJ considered political-level discussions unsuitable now due to the highly technical nature of the problem, centering in three issues:

Twelve-mile Base Line—The ROKG is making unreasonable demands. Their proposed line would embrace areas which, if the GOJ were to agree, would set a bad precedent for Japanese fishing arrangements with other countries.
Number of Boats—The Koreans are proposing a very limited number based on arbitrary, totally unacceptable calculations. Both Governments agreed to respect present practices but the Korean proposal violates this understanding. The GOJ will not agree to any proposal which would result in a reduction of the present Japanese catch in the affected areas.
Fisheries’ Cooperation—This issue is less troublesome, but the Koreans requested $178,000,000. Although the GOJ is unable to increase the previously agreed grant and long-term, low-interest loan figures, [Page 755] it is prepared to agree to normal commercial loans, provided the overall fisheries issue is solved in a satisfactory way.

Ambassador Takeuchi reiterated that the GOJ considers further negotiation at the expert level necessary. Political level discussions could not resolve the technical issues involved, at least until the outlines of an agreement have been reached.

The Secretary asked whether it might be feasible to schedule both technical and political discussions in relation to each other, so each side could enter into the kind of discussions it wants. Ambassador Takeuchi replied that the GOJ fears that if political level discussions were entered into, the Koreans would be encouraged to neglect the working level negotiations. The GOJ is concerned by the Korean attitude of almost boycotting the technical negotiations and insisting instead on political negotiations. The GOJ, having gone far to meet Korean desires in a political settlement of the claims issue, considers sincere negotiations at the technical level essential on fisheries.

Ambassador Takeuchi said that Japanese fishing interests are exerting strong pressures. They are afraid that the Foreign Office will compromise their interests. The Agriculture Minister had called on Mr. Ohira formally to call his attention to this aspect, making it difficult for the Foreign Office to show flexibility.

Mr. Barnett said that it was our understanding from recent reports that all relevant fisheries considerations are now on the table, with little or no further “research” necessary. Technicians tend to become obsessed with technical aspects. The will to agree seems strong on both sides and the gap relatively manageable if dealt with concurrently at the technical and political levels as the Secretary had suggested. Ambassador Takeuchi said that there had been prospects of working level agreement but recently the atmosphere had changed, possibly due to internal difficulties on the Korean side. The Koreans are proposing that the exclusive Korean fisheries zone be extended far out into the open sea, almost to the Rhee line.

The Secretary said that it had been his experience that when experts differed, the solution sometimes was for ministers to tell them to resume their discussions and come up with a solution. This was well illustrated by the experience of technicians and ministers in the GATT negotiations. Ambassador Takeuchi said that he believed Foreign Minister Ohira’s role to be one of key importance, particularly with the Agriculture Minister subject to fishing industry pressures. Perhaps it would be a very good thing to meet at a higher level, but this was not the present position of his Government. The Secretary asked whether it might be useful to set a date now for a meeting at the Foreign Ministers level and to establish a preparatory committee to prepare for that meeting. Ambassador Takeuchi saw advantages to such a procedure [Page 756] but feared that if the preparatory committee failed to make progress and an abortive meeting of Foreign Ministers took place it could make a bad impression.

The Secretary expressed appreciation for the information Ambassador Takeuchi had provided and asked him to convey to Foreign Minister Ohira the U.S. Government’s hopes for an early Japan-ROK settlement.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL JAPAN–KOR S. Confidential. Drafted by Fearey and approved in S on March 8.
  2. Rusk met with Kim on February 28; telegram 758 to Seoul, February 28, contains a summary of their conversation. (Ibid.)