349. Telegram From the Embassy in Japan to the Department of State 1

869. Ref: Deptel 672 sent Seoul 208 info CINCPAC unn.2

Japanese are ready to continue negotiations with Koreans at any time Koreans feel able to negotiate. Japanese could continue from where negotiations ended last April because of internal Korean political problems, but are more skeptical than ever of Korean ability to make agreement and obtain domestic Korean support for it. While Japanese are probably ready to make certain limited steps and gestures for the sake of improving atmosphere, they feel that these will have little appreciable effect until ROKG determined to make settlement and judges it can politically survive attempt. This they feel is and always has been the basic problem. Conciliatory steps and gestures made at a time when there is no hope for normalization, they feel, uses up ammunition that might better be used at more propitious time.
After years of urging on our part, GOJ made firm decision in 1962 to push ahead toward Korean settlement as necessary in Japan’s own interests. The then FonMin Ohira told Ambassador of this determination, and urged us not to push GOJ but let Japanese do it in their own way and at their own pace. He argued that US pressure ran danger of being counterproductive in Japan, and that GOJ fully determined to see matter through. Although in August 1962 Ohira had said $70 million in claims was maximum figure (with Finance Ministry proposing $10 million) (Embtel 295, Aug 1, 1962),3 by December Ohira had delivered on his commitment in Kim-Ohira agreement by raising figure to $500 million (grant plus easy loans). GOJ considered this major Japanese concession. It was expected at time that this would soon be followed by fishery settlement, which would be major Korean concession since it was generally understood that worldwide fishing position gave Japanese only limited room for concessions here. Ikeda and Ohira skillfully worked on Japanese public until there was general acceptance of normalization concept even though it had originally been very unpopular [Page 770] with Japanese public and opposition still promised an allout fight to block it. Meanwhile, however, Koreans did not come through on fishery settlement and demanded an additional financial settlement tied to it and various other sweeteners. On whole GOJ has been forebearing and has agreed to additional fisheries financial aid and to various other gestures not contemplated in original deal. GOJ, however, has noted that this forebearance and occasional additional concessions, while helpful no doubt to atmosphere of negotiations, have not overcome basic problem of ROKG’s unwillingness to risk settlement. Hence GOJ’s skepticism regarding further concessions is not surprising.
We intend to keep urging GOJ to be as tolerant and magnanimous as possible. Further import relaxations and extension of more credits on better terms would be desirable both to help improve atmosphere and to increase economic relationship during interim period before normalization. Increase in training programs for Koreans in Japan might also be helpful but only over longer period. In return, expansion and regularization of Japanese representation in Seoul and ending of boat seizures4 would be helpful here and would encourage GOJ to make larger concessions. Clear Japanese apology for their colonial oppression of Korea in past would, of course, make major contribution to improved Korean attitude toward Japan, but after many years of urging Japanese in and out of Government to do this, Ambassador has concluded that maximum Japanese statement, if obtainable, might do more harm than good. Japanese officials and public simply do not feel they owe any apology to Korea. Goodwill visit by figure like Yoshida, while running some risk because of Yoshida’s unpredictability, would probably be useful, since it could be interpreted by Koreans as meaning a great deal more than Japanese intended. However, GOJ obviously feels that this is not time for major gestures like Yoshida visit or substantial relaxation of restrictions on imports and that these should be reserved for a time when such major gestures had more hope of getting negotiations over final hump. We also conclude from Emb Seoul’s recent telegrams that such gestures would probably not be helpful in overcoming the main hurdle to normalization, which is unwillingness of ROKG to risk settlement.
As we see situation, primary need is to find means 1) to persuade Koreans that normalization is absolutely necessary for Korea and 2) convince leaders they can carry it out without committing political suicide. Are there arguments, guarantees, promises or gestures that we can make to convince the government and people of the first proposition and the government of the latter? When we see our way to clearing the major hurdle of ROKG unwillingness to ROK [reach] a settlement, then would be the effective time to pull out all the stops as described in para 3 to improve the atmosphere.
One point that we should think about ourselves and possibly use with the Koreans is that time may be running out on them in terms of Japanese attitudes. While Japanese political situation now stable and Japanese public willing to accept normalization with Korea on terms Kim-Ohira settlement, this situation could change for the worse. So far Japanese have accepted with some bitterness this public condemnation Korean refusal to permit establishment Japanese mission in Seoul similar to Korean mission in Tokyo as Koreans had promised at signing of peace treaty, Korean refusal to reciprocate Japanese gestures, and statements by Korean leaders that Japan not sincere in negotiating with Koreans. However, over the years Japanese sense of nationalism has been growing. The time may not be too far distant when this nationalism may rise to point where further seizures of Japanese fishing vessels would raise public storm requiring GOJ protect its boats by force. It should also be noted that both signers of the financial agreement (Ohira and Kim Chong p’il) are now no longer in their administrations. While we believe Ikeda will continue to honor Kim-Ohira agreement, we cannot predict what position of a new primin would be. On whole Japanese public opinion is likely to become less rather than more conciliatory toward Korea and demand may arise even for renegotiation of financial settlement.
One important factor in persuading ROKG to go ahead with settlement might be high level US visit to Korea or other intervention. In this connection we should remember that an important factor in GOJ success in winning Japanese public acquiescence in Korean settlement has been argument that this is being done by Japan in its own interest. US intervention in settlement would lend credence to opposition charges that settlement made at behest of US and is first step in Japanese adherence to SEATO, thereby making position of GOJ much more difficult. We therefore should be careful to see that any US intervention should not be in terms of mediation between Japan and Korea. Such visit, confined to Korea, would be to convince the Korean Government, political opposition and public of desirability of an agreement with Japan and to assure the Koreans that after this agreement the US will not leave them to the mercies of the Japanese.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL JAPAN–KOR S. Confidential. Repeated to Seoul and CINCPAC for POLAD.
  2. In telegram 672 to Tokyo, September 4, the Department of State requested recommendations for improving relations between Korea and Japan. The Embassy in Seoul detailed its recommendations in telegrams 250 and 251, September 17, and the Embassy in Tokyo submitted the Japanese response to Seoul’s analysis in airgram A–526, October 20. (All ibid.)
  3. Not printed. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Decimal File 694.95B/8–162)
  4. The Koreans regularly seized Japanese fishing vessels alleged to have breached the so-called Peace Line or to have violated Korea’s 12-mile territorial-waters boundary. The Japanese recognized a 3-mile limit on territorial waters. (Telegram 899 from Tokyo, September 10; ibid., Central Files 1964–66, POL JAPAN–KOR S) In a discussion of the issue with Brown, Pak explained that the Japanese were at this point sending more boats and penetrating deeper into Korean waters than earlier, thus the incidents were likely to continue until an agreement resolved the dispute. (Airgram A–163 from Seoul, September 17; ibid., POL 1 JAPAN–KOR S)