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

163. Ref: A. Embtel 155, rptd Tokyo 51, CINCPAC unn. B. Embtel 158, rptd Tokyo 53, CINCPAC unn.2

It is clear from conversations with key figures reported reftels that differences of view exist within ROKG on how to best achieve objective Korea-Japan normalization. Foreign Minister wishes to program strategy for gaining full normalization, while Prime Minister proposes more modest goal of partial normalization. President Pak takes somewhat middle ground in that he supports attempt achieve full normalization but is prepared reconsider and accept something less if circumstances so dictate.
I believe President’s position realistic and practical in that failure achieve full normalization will not preclude shifting objective to lesser goal if that becomes necessary. I do not, however, believe we should abandon preference for full normalization without full test of possibility.3
President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister appear convinced ROKG cannot simply reach agreement with Japan, then force its acceptance by use govt majority in Assembly and without “prudent regard” (Pak’s expression) to public opinion. I agree and believe that we should gauge our actions and support with this in mind.
I recommend we pursue following courses of action at this time:
Embassy Tokyo explore possibility early Yoshida good will visit to Seoul. We believe such visit would give substantial boost to govt efforts improve public attitudes and make easier resumption full scale negotiations. If Japanese response favorable we would arrange ROKG invitation. We can accept President Pak’s and Yi Tong-won’s assurance Yoshida would be received with respect.
We should proceed with plans from DAC coordinating group. We will discuss subject intensively with ROKG in next few days and [Page 767] believe we can obtain ROKG agreement make formal request. Public disclosure these efforts should await further consideration as to best timing in relation to resumption of negotiations when domestic political reactions may again present problem to ROKG.
We should discuss with Japanese and Koreans feasibility and utility arranging meeting of US, Japanese and Korean leaders to promote resumption negotiations. We should make clear US not taking on role of mediator, arbitrator or co-negotiator. I have in mind possible meeting in September between Under Secretary Ball, Shiina and high ROKG figure (Yi Tong-won or someone else). Alternatively we could think in terms similar meeting at time Asst. Secretary Bundy will be in area. Whether meeting should be in Tokyo or Seoul needs to be determined. Koreans would prefer Seoul, but if Yoshida visit precedes, they may more readily accept Tokyo meeting.4
ROKG should be encouraged activate early campaign secure maximum public, press and opposition acceptance need for normalization on realistic terms. We can help discreetly with key opposition figures, especially if govt makes serious attempt to bring opposition along, e.g. by including leading opposition or non-partisan [garble] ROK del when negotiations resumed.
Above recommendations are not meant to imply substantially greater US role in resolving specific differences between Korea and Japan, but rather to improve atmosphere for resumption negotiations. I recognize that they may be construed as direct involvement, and that efforts will be made to draw us into such a role. On balance I believe we should take such risk. Past efforts in which we careful to remain in background have not ended in success, through no fault of ours. If we are to make new effort now, we should be prepared to extend ourselves and our involvement within carefully predetermined limits.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL JAPAN–KOR S. Confidential; Priority. Repeated to Tokyo and CINCPAC for POLAD.
  2. Telegram 155 from Seoul, August 18, reported on Brown’s August 17 meeting with the Korean Foreign Minister, Prime Minister, and Deputy Prime Minister. (Ibid.) Telegram 158 from Seoul, August 18, detailed topics discussed between Brown and Pak when they met on August 18. (Ibid., POL 1 KOR S-US)
  3. Reischauer agreed with this approach as well as with recommendations A, B, and D contained in paragraph 4. (Telegram 641 from Tokyo, August 20; ibid., POL JAPAN–KOR S)
  4. Reischauer expressed “grave doubts” about a tripartite meeting, because its value in Korea depended on public knowledge of the simultaneous visit by high-ranking U.S. and Japanese officials. He indicated that such a meeting, although assisting Korea, would have “seriously adverse effects in Japan.” In Reischauer’s view it could not occur without “creating impression US ‘intervening’ directly in negotiations, which we still feel is most unwise” and would give the Japanese leftists an issue to exploit, thus significantly hindering the Japanese Government from making “conciliatory moves toward Koreans and complicating problem of ratification.” Reischauer was not opposed to a visit by a U.S. official, as long as it did not coincide with the Shiina visit. (Ibid.)