352. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Korea1

407. The Administration attaches high priority to early ROK/Japan settlement and is actively considering whether or not the U.S. should take more positive role, even extending to mediation, in achieving one. Moreover, Japan’s growing interest in normalization [Page 777] of relations with Chicoms increases pressure on us to get ROK/Japan settlement first.

Following paras intended to elicit from you contributions to current USG exploration of possible initiatives. We are prepared consider seriously pressures, if likely to be productive, both on Seoul where we have direct leverage and on Tokyo where we can appeal to Japan’s great capabilities and the responsibilities which should go with them.

One possible move would be to tell the ROKG quietly that we are supporting ROK forces for use against Communists and not as means for pursuing controversy with another U.S. ally—at very time when U.S. and ROK should both be trying to engage this other ally in providing support to ROK development. Future MAP appropriations for Korea, already under severe Congressional examination, could be affected by Korea’s use of its security and defense equipment in ways to inflame relations with Japan.
Another possibility is to hinge a substantial portion of further DL to an ROK/Japan settlement in some credible manner. We could say to ROKs that U.S. development aid not really effective until it can be augmented by complementing aid from other countries, particularly Japan. It is up to ROKs themselves to prove to us development intentions serious by gaining access to Japanese aid. ROKs would be far wiser to normalize now, when major U.S. presence still available as counterweight to any Japanese ambitions, than to risk loss of U.S. interest which would leave ROK eventually much more dependent on Japanese.
General feeling here is that we must achieve normalization of ROK/Japan relations before prospective normalization of Japan/Chicom relations introduces major new uncertainty. Would there be any mileage in delicately intimating to GOJ that U.S., which is in effect carrying whole burden of support of Korean buffer-zone for Japan, would find it most difficult to be confronted with steps toward normalization of relations with Chicoms prior to normalization with ROK? This would simply not be understood by U.S. Govt and public, which would see Japan as failing to live up to its strategic responsibilities in Northeast Asia. We would naturally wish avoid implying to Japanese that, once ROK/Japan settlement achieved, we would have no further objection to any Japanese moves toward Peiping. However, we estimate that some such moves are in the offing anyway, and that inserting ROK/Japan settlement as condition precedent might actually serve to delay rather than accelerate them. Similarly, would it be useful to impress on ROKs wisdom of normalization relations with Japan before Japan moves closer to Communist China (and by inference to North Korea)?

Above are at present merely ideas on which we invite Embassy comments.2 We would also be grateful for Embassy suggestions as to other ways in which ROK/Japan settlement could be brought closer.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL JAPAN–KOR S. Secret. Drafted by Komer and Barnett; cleared by Fearey, Stoneman (AID), and in substance by Blouin (OASD/ISA); and approved by Barnett. Also sent to Tokyo.
  2. In their replies Brown and Reischauer agreed that the climate for reaching a settlement was currently positive, but that the United States must continue to exert its influence effectively so that negotiations could be brought to a successful conclusion. Brown believed “new initiatives and possibly harsher intervention” were not yet required, whereas Reischauer advocated exerting pressure on Japan through strong and unequivocal U.S. support for Korea, especially in light of potential domestic and political turmoil in Korea that could accompany normalization with Japan. (Telegram 461 from Seoul, November 16, and telegram 1761 from Tokyo, November 17; both ibid.)