355. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Korea 1

583. Seoul’s 585, rptd Tokyo 217, CINCPAC Unn.2 We are seriously concerned about confusion and indecision within Korean Govt on approach to Korea-Japan settlement described reftel. While we do not oppose a staged approach to settlement beginning with early normalization diplomatic relations, Koreans seem to have no clear intention or program to move seriously in that direction. Govt leadership appears rather to be floundering about, looking for ways to avoid taking hard decisions necessary to achieve progress in negotiations. We share Ambassador Brown’s fears that approach as outlined by Koreans might end in failure.3

We shall defer considering initiatives on our part until after Ambassador Brown’s talks with FonMin and President Pak. In meantime, however, Embassy Seoul should strongly caution Korean Govt against prematurely disclosing to Japanese its current thinking. (On basis PriMin’s explanation, we fear Japanese would conclude Koreans unable and unwilling to negotiate seriously for a settlement.) Ambassador Reischauer should similarly caution Ambassador Kim.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL JAPAN–KOR S. Confidential; Priority. Drafted by O’Donohue, cleared by Bennett, and approved by Green. Also sent to Tokyo and repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD.
  2. In telegram 585 from Seoul, December 30, Brown reported that Kim Tong-cho “believed Sato govt. not in strong enough position to go ahead with settlement” and Chong Il-kwon appeared to agree, referring “unconvincingly to political divisions within Japanese ruling party and Sato’s inability to rally support.” Neither Kim nor Chong seemed optimistic about reaching normalization with Japan. (Ibid.)
  3. In the event the next round of negotiations failed to achieve a settlement, Kim recommended a shift in focus to partial normalization that involved normalizing relations and reaching agreement on specific issues, but postponing resolution of more difficult issues, such as fisheries and financial settlements, to a later time. (Telegram 585 from Seoul, December 30; ibid.)