dokdo.gifIt’s been revealed that the United States, when concluding its peace treaty with Japan immediately after the Korean War, unilaterally concluded that the Dokdo islets were Japanese territory, reports the Segye Ilbo. Or so the “Report of the Van Fleet Mission to the Far East,” obtained by the paper from VMI’s George C. Marshall Library, would seem to suggest.
The report noted that when Washington and Tokyo drew up their draft of the peace treaty, Korea laid claim to the islets, but the United States decided sovereignty over the rocks belonged to Japan. Accordingly, Dokdo was NOT included among the islands over which Japan agreed to give up sovereignty after the war, the report said.
The report said that even though the United States believes the islets to be Japan’s, it has avoided intervening in the dispute. It also noted that Washington felt it appropriate to refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice, and that it had unofficially conveyed this opinion to the Korean government.
Anyway, the Segye Ilbo translated the contents of the report for the benefit of Korean readers. Main points:

  • The report, which was drawn up by Korean War USFK commander General James A. Van Fleet following a 1954 tour of Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines as President Eisenhower’s special envoy, was categorized as top secret for 30 years;
  • With no clear grounds cited, the United States recognized Japan’s claims over the Dokdo islets, and–in accordance with Japan’s reasoning–took as its internal position that the problem should be resolved by referring the matter to the ICJ. Accordingly, there will likely be debate over how fairly the United States handled the issue following the war;
  • The report also refused to recognize the MacArthur Line, which the Korea government used to base its claims on the Dokdo islets;
  • The Korean government asked the United States to include the MacArthur Line into the San Francisco Peace Treaty and permanently ban Japanese fishing boats from operating in waters near the Dokdo islets, but the United States turned down the Korean request, believing it to run contrary to the principle of international law, which Washington was trying to support at the time. The MacArthur Line was established to prevent enemy intrusions into the waters around the Korean Peninsula, and was abolished as the United States and Japan concluded their peace treaty, but Korean President Syngman Rhee kept it as an operating line, renaming it the “Peace Line.” Washington informed Seoul that it did not recognize the validity of the line, and protested that it violated international law.
  • The report said, however, that the United States did not state its positions on the issue publicly. Only a handful of Korean officials knew Washington’s position on the matter, and Japan was kept completely unaware;
  • In a prior report, Van Fleet also recorded that it was U.S. policy not to support pre-emptive attacks or the use of force to unify the Korean Peninsula or overthrow the communist government in China;
  • He added that it was National Security Council policy to realign U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula and ultimately withdraw all U.S. forces from both Korea and Japan.

Van Fleet served as commander of USFK from April 1951, in the middle of the Korean War, to January 1953. The general, who lost his Air Force officer son during the war, is called the father of the Korean Army, having spent much effort on making the South Korean military an effective fighting force through such measures as rebuilding the country’s army academy.
A West Point classmate of Ike, he toured the Far East in 1954 as presidential envoy, submitting a rather massive report on Sept. 30 of that year. The report analyzed military trends in the region and pending political and diplomatic issues. In particular, the report gave detailed accounts of the combat capabilities of the Korean military and its weapon systems.
The report was declassified between January and June of 1986, but had escaped notice till now.