343. Telegram From the Embassy in Korea to the Department of State1

1729. 1. Prime Minister Chong Il-kwon told me June 25 he is now actively considering possibility achieving “limited” normalization ROK-Japan relations in period immediately following LDP election assuming Ikeda again elected party president. Chong envisages exchange full diplomatic missions and simultaneous agreement on part of Japanese to liberalize imports from Korea.2 Once normal diplomatic relations established under such arrangement full settlement pending issues could proceed in less controversial manner.

2. Chong expressed belief it would not be possible secure full settlement this year under present procedures. He was concerned that indefinite postponement normalization would lead to growth of two Koreas concept in Japan and greatly weaken ROK position. Therefore wanted to push ahead quickly to limited goal and hoped for US support.

3. Chong believes overt participation by US in such a limited settlement would ensure widest acceptance in Korea.3 Opposition some time ago indicated willingness accept diplomatic exchange and trade expansion as short-term goal and US support would simplify govt’s task.

4. Chong will discuss his proposal with President Pak and meet with us again on this question if latter approves. I cautioned Chong against possible press leaks. I told him we would consider role for US once proposal is clearly defined.

5. Comment: We agree with Prime Minister’s judgment that it is difficult conceive of early progress on overall normalization and favor further exploration concept of limited normalization timed for late summer. At this stage we would welcome Dept and Embassy Tokyo views. Are we prepared to indicate our support through direct action, e.g, high level US visit to Tokyo or Seoul to help achieve early limited [Page 762] agreement? What would be Japanese reaction to such proposal and to overt US involvement?

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL JAPAN–KOR S. Confidential. Repeated to Tokyo and CINCPAC for POLAD.
  2. In response the Embassy in Tokyo reported that with regard to “limited” or “partial normalization” the Japanese Government “has always favored such a step and would welcome it now.” The Japanese were also willing to accept a diplomatic mission, rather than a full-scale embassy, in Korea. The imports question was a problem because the Japanese were reluctant “to permit increased imports Korean marine products as long as Rhee Line issue unresolved and because of opposition from Diet members with ties to industries concerned.” (Telegram 3987 from Tokyo, June 29; ibid.)
  3. The Embassy noted Japanese wariness of overt U.S. participation, which would have to be credibly justified to the Japanese people, advising “that generally speaking the less overt US involvement the better.” (Ibid.)