353. Telegram From the Embassy in Japan to the Department of State1

1802. 1. FonMin Shiina invited me to private breakfast today for general exchange of views before he plunges into current extraordinary Diet session and then leaves for UN week from today. To my inquiry [Page 778] what subjects he hoped discuss with Secy on Dec 3 he replied Korean-Japanese normalization biggest problem and next to it long-range planning on China problem.2

2. On Korea he felt present was best opportunity to settle problem and showed strong determination to push ahead toward early normalization. He agreed with me that unless settlement achieved soon it might become progressively more difficult and also agreed that this was time for Japan to show maximum magnanimity. He said, however, that in talking with Koreans he had found unexpected difficulties. Deep fears of Japanese economic domination sometimes made magnanimous gestures suspect in Korean eyes, and since many Koreans are more interested in profit to themselves or their groups than in benefit to Korea, Japanese economic concessions became embroiled in domestic Korean politics (as they also sometimes did in Japanese politics for analogous reasons). Hence even acts of generosity required greatest caution or they might worsen rather than help situation. On Japanese side, fishing interests of west Japan were thoroughly aroused over threats to their traditional livelihood and created difficult political situation here.

3. I pointed out that most helpful act of magnanimity toward Korea would be some sort of apology to Koreans for colonial past. Shiina replied that any attempt along these lines would probably either arouse strong adverse reaction in Japan or else prove worse than unsatisfactory to Koreans. His private secretary who was also there interposed that proposed Shiina visit to Korea came as close to expression of apology as was feasible. I agreed that apology would be extremely delicate operation, but wondered if some forward-looking statement about turning backs on past unhappy history and moving to new period of friendly cooperation might not help assuage Korean feelings without irritating Japanese public. It might be tied to fact that 1965 is under same sign of sixty year cycle as 1905 when Japanese protectorate established and therefore in East Asian thinking is time for a new departure. (Point was made to me by Amb Kim who says Koreans refer to establishment of Japanese protectorate by cyclical name of [Page 779] year, thus emphasizing relationship of 1965 and 1905.) Shiina seemed unconvinced.3

[Here follows a discussion of China.]

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 7 JAPAN. Confidential. Repeated to Seoul and CINCPAC for POLAD.
  2. On December 3 Rusk met with Shiina, Takeuchi, and Matsui over lunch in New York. They discussed several matters, but did not review the Korea-Japan problem. (Telegram Secto 17 from New York, December 3; ibid., POL JAPAN–US) Rusk and Shiina met again on December 5 and briefly discussed Japan-Korea normalization, among other topics. Shiina told Rusk that conditions in Korea and Japan “had improved considerably and were now conducive to a successful conclusion of negotiations” between two countries. He expected a settlement could be reached in 1965. Rusk offered U.S. assistance to achieve that objective. (Ibid., Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330, December 1964)
  3. In telegram 1817, November 24, Reischauer suggested that, when he met with Shiina, Rusk could emphasize the difficulties Korea had to overcome to achieve normalization and suggest that Japan “assist ROK by taking attitude of unusual and unprecedented magnanimity toward ROK during negotiations.” Rusk could also mention that any Japanese sacrifices “should be viewed as investment in defense of Asian stability and freedom (Sato phrase) and will be more than repaid in future.” Reischauer further suggested that Rusk discuss U.S. efforts in Korea to foster a settlement as well as the possibility of the U.S. playing a more direct role in bringing the two sides together. (Ibid., Central Files 1964–66, POL JAPAN–US)