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May 10, 1972

Telegram from the Northeast Asia Department, 'Handling of the Korea issue in the United Nations (Draft)'

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Handling the Korea Issue at the UN


Showa 47 May 10


1. The handling of the Korea Issue at the United Nations should be thought of as one part of the Korean Peninsula policy of Japan. It is Japan’s Korean Peninsula policy to encourage the reduction of tensions on the Korean Peninsula by promoting the establishment of a North- South relationship of coexistence. The implementation of this policy can be summarized in the follow way.


I. Regarding the Republic of Korea, promote friendly and cooperative relations focused on economic cooperation so that, through economic development, livelihoods can be stabilized and the foundation of democratic nationhood can be strengthened.


II. Regarding North Korea and various interactions with them, we should observe and flexibly deal with North-South dialogue, such as the North-South Red Cross discussions, and other international developments. This should be done while also promoting friendly and cooperative relations with the Republic of Korea.


III. As far as possible, promote the reduction of tensions on the Korean Peninsula through the promotion of North-South relations. At the very least, Japan should not an obstruction towards the reduction of tensions.


2. The Korea issue vis-à-vis the United Nations should be dealt with in the following way.


1. Proactively shelve the Korea Issue


Through developments in the North-South Red Cross dialogues, it can be seen that there recently is an increasing mutual effort being made between the North and South to solve the Korea Issue on their own without being swayed by great nations or third parties. However, when at the United Nations, both sides inevitably insist on unnecessarily sticking to their principles and assume very confrontational postures.


Given that there is the possibility that direct dialogue may become obstructed, for the time being, strive to postpone UN deliberation on whether or not to entrust the North and South with solving the Korean Issue on their own.


2. This argument for proactively shelving the Korean issue is different from the proactive shelving of the UN invitation issue from last year, which was in actuality intended to avoid a disadvantageous vote. For the reasons given above, in this current case, shelving the issue has merits for both North and South, as well as the respective countries that back them. In cooperation with the Republic of Korea (this must be discussed beforehand with the Republic of Korea), lay the groundwork among the major countries at the UN before striving to convince the North and South to both agree (or at the very least acquiesce) to shelving the issue.


3. Success of shelving the issue at base depends on the attitude of North Korea. The inclinations of North Korea should be sounded out through, for instance, Romania (for example, by making use of the opportunity of Ceausescu’s visit to Japan). In addition, if necessary North Korea is to be reached through the Soviet Union (if possible through the United States during the United States-Soviet Summit) or China (through, for instance, the United States).


4. While laying the ground work towards proactively shelving the issue, we should work accordingly to bring the members of the UN General Assembly on our side as a way to bolster the effort to shelve the issue and as a precaution in case we cannot gain North Korea’s approval to shelve the issue (to effectively convince North Korea to abandon its insistence on deliberating the Korea issue at the UN by convincing the General Assembly to take our side).


5. In addition, if it is the case that the North and South cannot reach mutual consensus on shelving the issue, changes in the situation should be closely observed and considered.


3. The Korean Issue and the conditions of the Korean Peninsula


A. Conditions on the Korean Peninsula


i. Implementation of the Nixon Doctrine and closer US-China relations have greatly impacted the Korean Peninsula, as place where the interests of Asian countries, including the United States, China and the Soviet Union, have numerous entangled interests. Both North and South Korea have recognized the new situation and are struggling and groping for measures to deal with the changed circumstances.


Even under the current circumstances of international politics, the winds of détente are blowing and the heightened tensions seen in 1967-1968 no longer exists. Provocations from the North have ceased as such since 1969, and today they are close to none. Tensions on the Korean Peninsula are likely more psychological rather than something that is actual.


While neither the North nor South have strayed from their fundamental posturing, under the backdrop of détente, both sides appear to be gradually becoming more flexible and there are indications that they are searching for an autonomous solution to the Korea issue. The Red Cross dialogues between North and South has progressed since September of last year, and it is not an absolute impossibility that this may lead to governmental talks.


However, for both the North and South, recognizing that there indeed still exists a state of tension appears to take precedence. There is strong, mutual mistrust between the North and South. At this stage, this situation cannot be easily remedied. Therefore, it will require quite a lot of complications and plenty of time for the reduction of tensions to become established on the Korean Peninsula.


ii. The Park Chung Hee government has moved on to implementing the third Five-Year Plan, following after the first and second Five-Year Plans. It is worth paying attention to the achievement of economic development through the government’s maintenance of a stable foundation throughout the implementation of the Five-Year Plans. However, in recent years the many stresses owning to rapid economic development are beginning to show. Pressing issues that must be resolved include disadvantageous balance of payments, faltering business confidence, rising prices, a lagging agricultural industry, and fragile domestic resource mobilization systems. These economic stresses, coupled with the prevailing mood of détente, are factors that contribute to political issues and social uncertainties.


The declaration of a state of emergency of last December was done so with the domestic circumstances described above as a background. It appears that the intention was to effectively tighten domestic control and in doing so overcome varying economic and political difficulties. Since the state of emergency, the Park government has taken a committed posture, as seen, for instance, in the New Village movement. However, it is too early to predict whether it will produce results. Looking ahead to the presidential election scheduled for 1975, the next few years will be a consequential period of trial for the Park government.


On the occasion of China regaining its seat the United Nations, North Korea has determined that international circumstances are shifting in their favor and are placing the utmost effort in continuing this momentum to further increase their international standing. Although North Korea’s diplomatic activities have already been gradually becoming more active since 1971, the scale of their activities between February and March of this year has been unprecedented. North Korea’s enthusiasm in approaching Japan and the United States is more noteworthy than their diplomatic activities in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, which are intended to elevate their international standing.


Since the partial purging of the military clique between 1968-69, the Kim Il Sung government has succeeded in consolidating power and on the whole has achieved stability. At the moment, the greatest obstacles faced by North Korea are economic. North Korea has extended its Seven Year Plan by three years. In actuality, it has taken 10 years to achieve the planned objectives in 1970. It is presumed that the reason for the three-year extension was because they unsparingly prioritized military strengthening. Until now, North Korea has relied on self-reliance and the, so called, ‘Chollima Movement’ to serve as the drivers of economic development. However, this has inherent limits. Reforming North Korea’s industrial structure is unavoidable if its economy is to develop any further. This is why the threefold technological revolution is a central heading under the 1971 Six Year Plan. North Korea cannot help but turn to democratic countries, particularly Japan, for the acquisition of technological innovation, as they cannot rely on communist states, such as China and the Soviets, in this regard.


B. The Korea Issue under the United Nations


i. At the moment, we are primarily exchanging opinions and collecting information with friendly states, especially the Republic of Korea and the United States. We are not at a point where we can make a final determination on how to develop policies to cope with this issue. Given the progress of the North-South Red Cross dialogues and the heightened sense that both sides wish to resolve  the Korea issue on their own without being swayed by large or third-party countries, and with the intention of supporting the decrease of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, it is desirable that we try to postpone or adjourn the deliberation on the Korea issue. In addition, we should support, and at the very least not obstruct, the dialogue between North and South. It is also desirable that we avoid as much as possible the usual recriminations that are hurled between the respective supporters of the North and South.


ii. Whether deliberation can be postponed or not depends on the disposition of North Korea and the actions of the Soviet Union and China. However, last year even the backers of North Korea have expressed their recognition of the importance of the North-South Red Cross dialogue. Given this, it would be favorable that we secure a postponement of deliberation through dialogue between the respective supporters of the North and South. In order to convince North Korea about postponing the deliberation, as well as to prepare for the possibility that a confrontational vote becomes inevitable, it is critically important that we gather general committee members to our side. Similarly, we have become a general member and are running for the chair of the Fifth Committee, which is a committee of national interests as it deals with budgetary and human resources matters. (In this regard, it is encouraging that New Zealand has announced its candidacy as the vice-chair.)


iii. If the postponement of deliberation is not successful, the usual debates will inevitably be repeated. At any rate, as long as we do not lose the invitation issue, we can prevail in this issue with a narrow majority vote, although we would be at a slight disadvantage compared to before. However, it should be noted that the current circumstances do not warrant optimism regarding the proposal to unconditionally invite both North and South to the United Nations. Given that, we believe that it may be necessary to take a flexible approach and entertain alternative proposals (reference material attached), such as the New Zealand proposal of last year, or to consider allowing the unconditional invitation of


North Korea as circumstances develop. We would like to continue to exchange views on this issue.


iv. In any case, we would like to maintain close coordination centered on the UN, and maintain close collaboration on this issue. (Refer to Reference Material 3)


The Northeast Asia Department at the Japanese Foreign Ministry reports on the Korea question at the UN, inter-Korean relations, and political developments inside of the two Koreas.

Document Information


Nihon Gaimushō “Chōsen mondai” [Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs “Korea issue”] (administrative number 2012-1787), Diplomatic Archives Of The Ministry Of Foreign Affairs Of Japan. Obtained by Kyungwon Choi and translated by Ryo C. Kato.


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