354. Telegram From the Embassy in Korea to the Department of State1

487. Ref: Deptel 429.2

I believe visit by President Pak to US would be useful generally in respect overall US–ROK relations and more specifically in connection ROK-Japan normalization. Over past few weeks we have been reminded by Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Presidential Secretary, Yi Hu-rak of Pak’s desire make official visit. Yi Hu-rak said President definitely desires visit in spring but I have not discussed question with President.
Timing of visit should be related to progress ROK-Japan normalization. If settlement with Japan reached before March, Pak visit in March or April could help gain public acceptance normalization and give Pak extra boost in overcoming this difficult problem. If settlement not reached by then because of continuing popular opposition at home, Pak visit could be used to improve prospects early normalization. We will be better able to judge these possibilities after negotiations have [Page 780] been resumed. Whenever it occurs visit would be construed in Korea as US support for Pak and his policies.
Timing also related to usually unsettled political climate characteristic of springtime in recent years. With ROK-Japan normalization as focal point, and continuing political animosity to govt on part some opposition party elements, coming spring quite likely to be time of internal tension. Other factors at work include: emerging unification question, economic stresses, student activism, and possible return Kim Chong-pil. Strengthening Pak’s position at such time would probably be desirable in interest overall stability and continuity orderly political developments of constitutional government.
Foreign Minister at one point suggested that because of expected tensions in spring he believes Pak should remain in Korea at that time and visit US later in year. Yi Hu-rak, on other hand, has remarked that visit in spring would distract public attention from other difficulties facing govt and would increase ability govt overcome opposition to its policies and quiet tensions.
I believe we can leave question of timing as related to internal tensions to Pak’s judgement. My own judgement now would be to favor visit in spring for reason cited above but I would want to discuss timing personally with Pak. If Dept favors visit I suggest that I be authorized to tell Pak US would welcome visit and then explore various possibilities with him. In this connection it would be helpful if Dept could give some idea of possible alternative dates suitable to President Johnson’s schedule.3
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 7 KOR S. Secret; Limdis.
  2. Telegram 429 to Seoul, November 18, requested the Embassy’s views on a visit by Pak to the United States and recommendations on the timing of such a visit. (Ibid.)
  3. On December 4 William Bundy recommended to Rusk, who recommended to the President, that Pak make an official visit to the United States in March or April. (Memorandum from Bundy to Rusk; ibid.) Rusk repeated his recommendation memorandum to the President in mid-January 1965 after the Korean press had hinted that an invitation was in the offing. Although the White House advocated delaying the visit until the outcome of negotiations on the ROK-Japan settlement became clearer, Rusk believed that in light of the media attention in Korea for the United States to withhold or delay the invitation would “create the impression that we are putting a pistol to the head of the Koreans to work out a deal on any terms they can get.” (Memorandum from Rusk to President Johnson, undated, attached to a memorandum from Bundy to Rusk, January 14, 1965; Department of State, Bundy Files: Lot 85 D 240, Miscellaneous Chronological File) Pak visited the United States May 17–19, 1965; see Document 363.