348. Letter From the Ambassador to Japan (Reischauer) to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1

Dear Mac:

In reply to your note of August 13,2 let me say that the message on Korean normalization brought by Win Brown from the White House got through to us loud and clear.

Actually this problem has always stood at the top of my list of priorities. During a visit to Korea in the autumn of 1960, I became convinced that, without the economic boost that Korean-Japanese normalization would bring to Korea, we would never be able to build a solid economic foundation on which a viable political regime could develop there. I promised certain Korean leaders that I would try to convince people in Washington of this when I got back. I was in Washington for this purpose in January 1961 when the Department asked me to take my present job. So you see I have appreciated the vital importance of this problem for a long time.

A major difficulty is that, to get normalization over the very great hurdles of party conflict and public opposition in Korea, we will probably have to push more openly for it in Korea than we have in the past, but any seeming intervention on our part makes the problem more difficult in Japan. This situation requires a careful balancing act between needs in Korea and risks in Japan. However, we do have a considerable margin of safety on the issue here, so I believe it may be possible to put on the needed pressure in Korea without building up unacceptable reactions here. Still it remains a delicate political operation to determine just what is the maximum degree of pressure we can safely exert. The present exchange of telegrams (see our 641, for example)3 is directed toward this end.

In any case, please rest assured that we here in Tokyo regard the whole normalization problem as being of the greatest importance and are prepared to do everything we can and run considerable risks to get it satisfactorily solved.


  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Korea, Vol. II. Secret. A copy was sent to Brown in Seoul.
  2. In his letter to Reischauer Bundy underscored the importance President Johnson placed on realizing a settlement and normalization of relations between Japan and Korea and the central role to be played by each Embassy in achieving those objectives. (Ibid.)
  3. See footnotes 3 and 4, Document 347.