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

3894. Ref: Embtel 3870.2

I called on FonMin Shiina today at his request to discuss the fisheries problem. Shiina specifically asked that his remarks be brought to direct attention of Secretary Rusk. Following is text of talking paper from which FonMin read:

Begin verbatim text.

“Charges have recently been made in the United States against the Japanese salmon fishing west of 175 west longitude. Bills authorizing the President of the United States to raise the tariffs on marine products imported from Japan as much as 50 percent have been submitted in the Congress of the United States, and certain US fishermen’s unions have expressed their intent to carry out boycotting of Japanese goods and picketing of Japanese ships. We are greatly concerned with such situation which, if left to develop, may adversely affect the overall Japan-US relationship. The position of the Japanese Government on this problem is as folows:

The Japanese salmon fishery operated west of 175 west longitude is in no way restricted or regulated under the present North Pacific Fisheries Convention. Despite a strong dissatisfaction with the present convention based on the unequitable ‘absention formula,’ which is unknown elsewhere in international law, Japan has faithfully observed the convention for twelve years. It is beyond our comprehension that in the face of this fact an attempt is being made in the United States to impose further regulations on Japan.
Certain individuals concerned in the United States have charged that the Japanese high seas Salmon fishery is depleting the Bristol Bay red salmon resources. This is contrary to the fact. Statistics show that the Bristol Bay red Salmon resources are on a rising trend.
This development is especially regrettable in view of the fact that the negotiations for revision of the present convention are in [Page 93] progress, and efforts are being made to find the most effective methods to conserve the Salmon resources.
The bills referred to above provide for tariff raise as a retaliative measure. If a measure to raise tariffs against a specific country or countries is taken, we believe it will constitute a clear breach of the GATT and the Japan-US Treaty on Friendship, Commerce and Navigation.
Under Secretary Mann made a request to Ambassador Takeuchi on May 21 that Japan should voluntarily restrict Salmon fishing.3 As the Ambassador replied at that time, the Japanese salmon fishery west of 175 west longitude is neither a violation of the present convention or depleting the resources, and therefore we cannot comply with this request.” End verbatim text.

After the FonMin had read from the foregoing talking paper, Yasukawa Director of the American Affairs Bureau brought out a chart of the Bristol Bay red Salmon run, 1946–65. Yasukawa pointed out that Japanese catch rises and falls in proportion to total run. Forecasts of the run, he said, were difficult but experts seemed to be agreed that this year’s run will be high. Therefore, he said, one might expect that the Japanese catch will increase somewhat over last year. However, Japanese fishing industry would be fishing over whole area of north Pacific west of 175 west and would not wish to concentrate too heavily near 175 west line for fear of missing fish of Asian origin. (Yasukawa made this point twice.)

I referred to and reiterated some of the arguments I made during the meetings in Tokyo in February. We believe, I said, that the Salmon resources are the result of our own conservation policies. There have now been three bad years for the Salmon canneries and there is the danger that this year will also be a poor one. There are strong feelings about this in the US. I said that a good year is needed to recoup previous losses and in order to create a favorable atmosphere in which negotiations on the north Pacific fisheries convention can be resumed.

Comment: It seems possible that Yasukawa was giving us message that Japanese will not fish American Salmon too heavily this year. Embassy doubts that we shall get any more explicit answer than this, if that is what it was.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 33–4 JAPAN-US. Confidential.
  2. In telegram 3870 from Tokyo, May 24, the Embassy summarized a press report from the Japan Times pertaining to the May 21 meeting between Mann and Takeuchi. The article reported U.S. hopes for voluntary restraint by Japanese fishermen and Takeuchi’s regret over what was seen as anti-Japanese actions in the United States over the Salmon issue. (Ibid.)
  3. A summary of that conversation was forwarded to the Embassy in telegram 3206 to Tokyo, June 3. (Ibid.)