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

970. Ref: Deptel 935.2

I agree crucial question governing communication US reassurances future support is ROKG schedule of moves regarding ROK-Japan settlement. Current schedule calls for signature formal agreements first week in May.3 Koreans determined sign before Pak’s departure to Washington and are urging Japanese to speed up drafting. Agreement will be submitted to National Assembly for ratification as soon as possible after Pak’s return to Korea, i.e. early June. Assembly consideration will require minimum of two or three weeks.
Meanwhile govt is conducting full campaign to explain agreement to public and counter opposition and student moves.4 Opposition extremists, led by Yun Po-son, are out to topple govt and hope to use students as instrument. Govt prepared take all necessary measures protect itself and gain ratification including imposition of martial law if situation requires.
Pak visit to Washington is important element in govt plans. In present schedule it is strategically placed between first shock of opposition moves now underway and final struggle over ratification. Barring unexpectedly violent demonstrations in next few weeks ratification period will be most critical period.
ROKG is counting on US political, military and economic assurances at time of visit to provide boost to Pak’s position at this most important moment. From clear indications we have received from Blue House neither Pak nor his govt wish such a package to be presented [Page 789] prior to visit. I am convinced that if we were to approach Pak with draft letter proposed at this time he would ask matter be deferred until his visit. This would be especially true if, as is likely, visit were to take place only a week or so after signature of agreement with Japan.
I believe surfacing US commitments by letter before Pak visit would dissipate their impact, which is sure to be greatest if it comes at time when public opinion in Korea is sharply focused on Pak and relationships between Korea and US. Moreover, prior surfacing would certainly lead to further bargaining in connection with visit. Given Korean psychology and pervasive relationship between US and ROK that has been built up over the years there is no avoiding association of a package with visit itself.
Therefore, I continue to believe material content draft letter should be reserved for joint communique or other appropriate occasion connected with visit. I would however see value in simple letter of congratulation at time of signature as further evidence of US interest and support. For this purpose paras one, two, first sentence para three, penultimate para on page three, draft letter dated March 31, ending with para anticipating pleasure of meeting in Washington would be very appropriate. Similar message to Prime Minister Sato might well be felt necessary.
Form of expressions of assurances which we are prepared to give is almost as important as their substance and for maximum impact should be tailored so far as possible to Korean reader. With this in mind I will within few days submit recommendations as to how substantive matters contained in draft letter of March 31 and one or two other points I have to suggest might best be expressed in a joint communique. If it is desired to restrict joint communique to general statement, the commitments could alternatively be given at time of visit in some other appropriate form, e.g. an accompanying letter or memorandum.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 7 KOR S. Confidential; Priority; Limdis.
  2. Telegram 935 to Seoul, April 4, noted Department of State and White House concern about “determining optimum moment for communication of USG assurances future aid,” and the efforts to grapple with the question of Korea’s plans for handling opposition to a settlement with Japan. (Ibid.)
  3. On April 3 the Foreign Ministers of Korea and Japan initialed outline agreements and issued a joint communique on a final normalization agreement. The outline agreements and joint communique are summarized in telegrams 3121 and 3123, April 3 and 4, from Tokyo. The Embassy in Tokyo forwarded the complete text of both documents to Washington in airgram A–1447, April 27. (All ibid., POL JAPAN–KOR S)
  4. While the Korean Government and DRP politicians attempted to win popular support for an agreement with Japan, the Embassy reported that “opposition politicians continue to fulminate against ROK-Japan agreements and against govt.” and that “activity among student groups against govt. and against ROK-Japan talks is increasing.” Newspaper reports about the outline agreements appeared unfavorable, except in papers owned by or close to the government. (Telegram 966 from Seoul, April 7; ibid.)