Memorandum of Conversation, by the Officer in Charge of Korean Affairs in the Office of Northeast Asian Affairs July 19, 1951

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[Washington,] July 19, 1951 SECRET
Subject: Japanese Peace Treaty
Participants: Dr. Yu Chan Yang, Korean Ambassador
Mr. Pyo Wook Han, First Secretary, Korean Embassy
Ambassador John Foster Dulles
Mr. Arthur B. Emmons, 3rd, Officer in Charge, Korean Affairs  The Korean Ambassador called upon Mr. Dulles at 2 o’clock this afternoon by prior appointment. In opening the conversation Dr. Yang presented Mr. Dulles with a note addressed to the Secretary (copy attached) raising certain points which the Korean Government wished to have considered for incorporation in the Japanese peace treaty.  After reading the Ambassador’s communication, Mr. Dulles discussed the three points contained therein. With regard to the first point, Mr. Dulles was in doubt that the formula confirming Japan’s renunciation of certain territorial claims to Korea, could be included in the treaty in the form suggested by the ROK. He explained that the terms of the Japanese surrender instrument of August 9, 1945 did not, of themselves, technically constitute a formal and final determination of this question. He added, however, that the Department would consider including in the treaty a clause giving retroactive effect to the Japanese renunciation of territorial claims to August 9, 1945. The Korean Ambassador replied that if this were done he believed that the point raised by his Government would be met satisfactorily.  Mr. Dulles noted that paragraph 1 of the Korean Ambassador’s communication made no reference to the Island of Tsushima and the Korean Ambassador agreed that this had been omitted. Mr. Dulles then inquired as to the location of the two islands, Dokdo and Parangdo. Mr. Han stated that these were two small islands lying in the Sea of Japan, he believed in the general vicinity of Ullungdo. Mr. Dulles asked whether these islands had been Korean before the Japanese annexation, to which the Ambassador replied in the affirmative. If that were the case, Mr. Dulles saw no particular problem in including these islands in the pertinent part of the treaty which related to the renunciation of Japanese territorial claims to Korean territory.  In regard to paragraph 2 of the Ambassador’s communication, Mr. Dulles assured the Ambassador that it was the intention of the United States to extend protection to the Republic of Korea with respect to any Japanese claims concerning vested properties in Korea. He said that the Department would study this question but that at the moment he could not forsee that this would involve any particular difficulty.  With reference to paragraph 3 of the communication, Mr. Dulles stated that he could say right off that it would be impossible to meet the Korean request for inclusion in the treaty of a delimitation of high-seas fishing areas pointing out that the United States had been under great pressure from many countries and also from American fishing interests to make the treaty, in effect, a fishing convention for the Pacific. He went on to explain that to do so would open up a whole area of conflicting interests and claims which would greatly complicate the writing of the treaty. He pointed out, however, that this did not preclude negotiation of a series of bilateral or multilateral agreements on fisheries with Japan following the conclusion of the treaty.  Mr. Dulles remarked that very frankly the Department was surprised and greatly disturbed at the strong language which the Korean Ambassador had used in a press statement on July 18 in which warnings were uttered against accepting the Japanese into association with the peace-loving nations of the world in full faith and confidence. Mr. Dulles pointed out the difficulty and delicacy of the position of the United States in its efforts to obtain a reasonable and satisfactory treaty with Japan, a matter of great significance to all Pacific nations, and stressed the importance, in this matter, of Korean understanding and cooperation; while the United States understood and sympathized with the Koreans in their difficult relationship with Japan and while the Ambassador undoubtedly was acting under instructions from his Government, Mr. Dulles pointed out that such statement did not help matters.  The Korean Ambassador stated that there were some 800 thousand Koreans in Japan who were being very much discriminated against by the Japanese Government. The reason for this, he believed, was that Japan still rankled over the loss of Korea and was determined to take it out on such Koreans as might still be under Japanese control. Mr. Dulles suggested that many of these Koreans were undesirables, being in many cases from North Korea and constituting a center for Communist agitation in Japan. He believed, therefore, that probably a legitimate Japanese fear of certain of these Koreans was involved in any action taken against them by the Japanese authorities.  Mr. Dulles asked the Ambassador what, in his opinion, was the reason why the United States is advocating a liberal and non-restrictive treaty with Japan, knowing that we had only recently fought Japan at great cost and that we were most concerned with the future structure of peace in the Pacific.  Dr. Yang replied that he assumed that our motivation in writing such a treaty was because of the inherent friendship of the American people for the rest of the world. The Ambassador wished to stress, however, the Koreans had suffered tremendously over a period of many years at the hands of the Japanese, that while the Koreans wished to live in peace with Japan and demanded no reparations, they felt that once a treaty was signed, Korea would be at the mercy of a resurgence of Japanese economic strength which would make the future security of Korea a most serious problem; unless the United States were willing to exercise its powerful influence to control Japan, Korea would inevitably lapse into a poor bargaining position in its future relations with Japanese because of the preponderance of power which would rest with the latter.  Mr. Dulles explained that, far from being afraid of the future economic and military strength of Japan, American experts were now worried about the problem of even establishing viability in Japanese economic life, that the grave danger, both to Korea and to the other nations of the Pacific, was that Japan, because of weakness, might ultimately fall under Communist domination and that it was with this in mind that the United States believed it essential to leave Japan free to rebuild its peace time economy. He pointed out that since the Japanese would be dependent to a very great degree on imports of raw material from abroad, this fact in itself would constitute an effective form of control over Japan’s resurgence.  The Ambassador then referred to the great moral and psychological disadvantage to the Korean people in not being considered a member of the Allied Powers which had fought Japan and which would sign the treaty. He emphasized that under the so-called Korean Provisional Government the Koreans had been fighting the Japanese for many years even prior to World War II and that they felt they had won for themselves the right to a place at the peace table. Mr. Dulles replied that some qualifying test obviously had to be established for those who would sign the treaty in order to provide a reasonable formula under which the treaty could be written, and that many Allied Nations besides the United States had also believed that only those countries which had signed the 1942 Declaration of the United Nations should be signatories to the treaty. To include Korea, whose government had been established only in 1948, would be to open up a considerable area of possible disagreement which would complicate getting the treaty through and would bring into the picture several other nations which considered their claims to be signatories to be as valid as those of the ROK, He wished to assure the Ambassador that this limitation did not in any sense reflect a lack of United States interest or complete sympathy with Korea or any intent derogatory to the ROK, but emphasized rather that we regarded Korea with great solicitude and sympathy.  The Korean Ambassador again expressed the fear that the net result of a lenient treaty with Japan, in which Korea did not participate, would be to expose her to great difficulties in the future; despite American assurance of our interest in the maintenance of good Korean-Japanese relations, the United States at some point might well relax this interest and Korea would then be exposed to undue pressure from Japan unless a stricter treaty were put into effect to which Korea would be a signatory. To illustrate his point, he referred to the fact that Japanese fishing vessels were crossing the so-called MacArthur Line into Korean waters even while SCAP was still in authority in Japan, and that the Koreans wondered what would happen when SCAP’s control over the Japanese had been removed. Dr. Yang suggested that the Koreans might feel differently if the United States would assume responsibility for the future defence of Korea, and he wondered whether such a treaty of defence could not be worked out.  In concluding the conversation the Korean Ambassador jocularly suggested that if Korea were accorded the full status of a signatory to the treaty,, he thought that the ROK could perhaps drop its insistence upon having the points raised in paragraph 2 and 3 of his communication included therein. Mr. Dulles replied that he could not undertake to agree that any such arrangement could be made but that he would give sympathetic consideration to all of the points raised by the Korean Ambassador.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).