356. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Japan-Korea

PARTICIPANTS

  • Eisaku Sato, Prime Minister of Japan
  • Etsusaburo Shiina, Foreign Minister of Japan
  • Ryuji Takeuchi, Japanese Ambassador
  • Takeo Miki, Secretary-General of the Liberal Democratic Party
  • Nobuhiko Ushiba, Deputy Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs
  • Takeshi Yasukawa, Director of American Bureau, Foreign Ministry
  • Toshiro Shimanouchi, Consul General of Japan at Los Angeles (interpreter)
  • Susumu Nakagawa, Minister, Embassy of Japan
  • Masao Kanazawa, Counselor, Embassy of Japan
  • Secretary Rusk
  • Under Secretary Ball
  • Edwin O. Reischauer, Ambassador to Japan
  • William P. Bundy, Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs
  • G. Griffith Johnson, Assistant Secretary for Economic Affairs
  • Marshall Green, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs
  • Robert W. Barnett, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs
  • John K. Emmerson, Minister, American Embassy, Tokyo
  • Robert A. Fearey, Director for East Asian Affairs
  • Richard W. Petree, Officer-in-Charge, Japanese Affairs, Office of East Asian Affairs
  • James Wickel, Department Language Services

Prime Minister Sato turned to Japan-Korea relations.2 He said that his Government found the domestic political situation in the Republic of Korea hard to understand. Apparently both the President and Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea sincerely want to achieve an early settlement with Japan. He did not see any clear prospect for such a settlement, but his Government would do everything it could to promote normalization of relations. He felt strongly that a settlement with Korea could not be delayed.

Secretary Rusk said that a Japan-Korea settlement is very important. We have regretted the delays in the settlement, which have been costly to all of us. As we look back and realize the benefits both countries have lost this past three years, we can see how costly the [Page 783]delay has been. We have felt that both sides desire a settlement, but that the problem is the terms. This problem has been vexing. The Koreans very earnestly desire a settlement of their differences with Japan. One has only to recall some of the demonstrations which have taken place to see that a domestic problem exists, however. Secretary Rusk said he hoped very much that an agreement could be worked out through diligence and patience. Such a settlement would be a stimulus to the Free World position in the Western Pacific; it would be a great achievement if Japan and Korea could put their relations on a long-term, stable basis.

Prime Minister Sato said that he would be discussing this problem with Ambassador Reischauer and would see if a way could be found to move ahead with a settlement. It would be undesirable in both Japan and Korea for the U.S. to appear to intervene in the negotiations, and for that reason the Japanese side had asked for the deletion of the Japan-Korea paragraph from the Joint Communique.3 The Secretary agreed. The Prime Minister said that his Government wants the abolition of the “Rhee Line,” but the Korean Government finds it difficult to get public acceptance for this idea within Korea. He suggested that Japan could accept a de facto abolition of the “Rhee Line,” without a formal approach to the problem in written form, if the Treaty—if ratified—superseded domestic legislation in Korea; but this was a difficult point to iron out. He said another outstanding minor problem is Takeshima (Dokto).

Secretary Rusk said he thought that it might be possible to work out some kind of cooperation on the “Rhee Line.” Similar problems have been worked out in the past. Perhaps the Rhee Line could be left to wither away and disappear ultimately through irrelevance in terms of the overall improvement in Japan-Korea relations. An example of this is the national frontier between Luxembourg and Belgium.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL JAPAN–KOR S. Secret. Drafted by Petree and approved in S on January 26. The meeting was held in the Secretary's Conference Room.
  2. Sato made an official visit to Washington on January 12–13.
  3. The text of the Johnson-Sato communique of January 13 is in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1965, pp. 769–771.