351. Letter From the Ambassador to Japan (Reischauer) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Bundy)1

Dear Bill:

Recent developments in the negotiations between Japan and Korea seem to have been marked by a more positive approach by the Korean side and by a “Missouri-like show me” attitude on the Japanese side, which has been complicated by the uncertainties attending the resignation of Prime Minister Ikeda.

The new Korean Ambassador has given the impression that the Koreans are now prepared not only to start negotiations but to bring them to a successful conclusion in the near future. To this end, he said [Page 775] he would settle the outstanding problems concerning the $20 million loan and the loans for the cement and the PVC plants and that he is ready to proceed with similar speed and determination to settle the other issues between Japan and Korea.

On the Japanese side, there appears to be something of the feeling that they are now hearing again the old record which they have heard many times over the past ten or twelve years. Asian Bureau Director Ushiroku has taken pains to point out to us that there are many problems which remain to be solved and that each of these many problems will require difficult negotiation.

An important reason for this Japanese feeling is their inability to predict with much assurance that an agreement arrived at in Tokyo will be supported by enough political opinion in Korea to permit the Korean government to remain in power. For that reason, there is a fear that any concessions the Japanese may make at the bargaining table now will be ineffective in producing normal relations with Korea; thus, further Japanese concessions might become necessary in the new negotiations which would later be required.

There is also a fear that the Koreans will use the weakness of their government to extract further concessions from Japan; the Japanese expect the Koreans will argue that unless Japan makes concessions, the Korean government may fall and normalization will not be achieved.

There is also some fear that the United States will use these same arguments to pressure the Japanese into meeting the Korean demands. There was something of this in the reaction of the Foreign Minister to the recent visits by Bob Barnett and yourself.

The Japanese press continues to regard normalization with Korea as a natural development. It has reported and condemned recent seizures of Japanese ships but there has been no call by the responsible press for refusing to carry on the normalization negotiations. The press has generally followed the guidance of the Foreign Minister, welcoming the new Ambassador but playing down the possibilities of an early settlement.

The resignation of Prime Minister Ikeda and the political negotiations attendant upon the selection of a new Prime Minister will make it difficult, if not impossible, for Foreign Minister Shiina to visit Korea in the immediate future. However, as soon as the new Administration is installed, the Japanese should be able to proceed with negotiations. Japanese policy and positions are already well established and the Japanese negotiators can start their work without further guidance. Normalization with Korea has been established LDP policy for many years and we doubt that any new government will alter this policy substantially.


  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL JAPAN–KOR S. Confidential; Official-Informal. A copy was sent to Ambassador Brown.