Memorandum in regard to the Liancourt Rocks (Takeshima Island) controversy
(TAKESHIMA ISLAND) CONTROVERSY.
Ambassador Allison contends (Tokyo's 1306, November 23) that the United States is "inescapably involved" in the Takeshima dispute. In evidence, he points to the Rusk note of 1951 and to the Potsdam Declaration, the Peace Treaty, etc..
There can be no question that the United States has committed itself to an attitude in this matter. However, I fail to see that the commitment carries with it the obligation to intervene between two contestants who are now sovereign nations and who have available to them ample machinery for settlement of such disputes. I cannot believe that a dispute of such essentially unimportant nature will lead to a situation serious enough to justify an intervention by us which could only create lasting resentment on the part of the loser. This is certainly no time to exacerbate our relations with either country. I think that this hands-off position should be maintained regardless of the validity of the claim of either party. I think that the Department is on firm grounds in maintaining that the United States Government is "not legitimately involved in this matter" as has already been pointed out in the Department's note to the Embassy.
The Liancourt Rocks case appears to have aspects in common with that of Shikotan Island, off the coast of Hokkaido, which was occupied by Soviet troops in 1945. We have publicly declared our view that this Island belongs to Japan, but no one in Japan or elsewhere seriously expects us to take military action under the Security Treaty to reclaim this Island for Japan. I think we need not feel undue anxiety even in the unlikely contingency that Japan should invoke the Security Treaty with respect to the Liancourt Rocks.
Nevertheless, I do not think we can or should continue to withhold indefinitely an expression of our position in this matter, particularly if the dispute continues to worsen. Sooner or later the Japanese will get wind of the Rusk letter and will then resent our failure to inform them of something which would measurably strengthen their position. Even if they do not, I think we would be remiss in not apprising the Japanese of a position which we have consistently maintained and which we are under no obligation not to divulge.
Accordingly, I suggest that we adopt the following course of action;
- Express to the ROK Government our concern over repeated clashes with the Japanese over the Liancourt Rocks.
- Remind the ROK of our previous statement of view (the Rusk letter); express strong hope that settlement can be reached with the Japanese; state that the United States seeks
to avoid any form of intervention in this matter but if clashes continue to occure we may be forced to give publicity to the Rusk letter and to reiterate the view expressed therein; suggest that if the ROK can not accept the view expressed in the Rusk letter, it take steps toward arbitration or appeal the matter to the ICJ.
- In case the foregoing steps do not alleviate the situation, seek an appropriate occasion to publicize the Rusk note and disclaim any desire to intervene in this matter.
- William T. Turner