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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06SEOUL3157 2006-09-13 07:53:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Seoul
Cable title:  

KOREA-JAPAN ONE-TIME AGREEMENT ON SEABED SURVEY

Tags:   PREL KS JA 
pdf how-to read a cable
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RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 7502
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1304
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SEOUL 003157 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 9/12/2016
TAGS: PREL KS JA
SUBJECT: KOREA-JAPAN ONE-TIME AGREEMENT ON SEABED SURVEY

Classified By: Joseph Y. Yun. Reasons 1.4 (b/d).

SUMMARY
-------



1. (C) Japanese Embassy Seoul explained that the GOJ
approached the September 5-9 negotiations with the ROKG about
conducting scientific surveys in the disputed seas around the
Liancourt Rocks with determination, informing the ROK that
Tokyo was prepared to ask for international arbitration if
necessary. While the agreement only covers one joint survey,
probably to be conducted in October, the Embassy said that
the agreement prevented a crisis and paved the way for
improved relations with the ROK as Japan prepares for a new
government. "Complex" bilateral exclusive economic zone
(EEZ) discussions will be held in December, our Japanese
Embassy contact said. End Summary.

ONE-TIME AGREEMENT


--------------------------





2. (U) Japan and the ROK agreed on September 9 to conduct a
one-time joint survey of the seabed around the disputed
Liancourt Rocks (called Dokdo by Korea; Takeshima by Japan)
in the Sea of Japan/East Sea roughly equidistant between the
two countries. Technical teams from both countries are in
Japan this week to work out the details and date of the
survey, expected to be in October, after formation of the new
Japanese government and before the seas get too rough. The
International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) is also
expected to participate in the survey.



3. (U) The agreement calls for one vessel from each country
to perform the joint survey; Japanese researchers will board
the Korean scientific vessel, and vice versa. The
researchers will likely proceed first to three seabed sites
that are inside the oval-shaped disputed EEZ area around the
Liancourt Rocks, and then to three additional seabed sites
inside undisputed Japanese waters (sketch faxed to EAP/K).
The first three sites are where the GOJ conducted once-yearly
scientific surveys from 1994 until 2004, with no publicity or
protest from the Korean side. Ostensibly for the sake of its
data series, Japan has insisted on returning to the three
sites. The Japanese announcement of a planned survey in
April 2006 -- never carried out -- provoked a bilateral
crisis, leading both sides to agree to work out an agreement.
The novel part of the September 9 agreement is that the two
governments also agreed that the two-vessel survey would also
proceed to three seabed sites that are inside undisputed
Japanese territorial waters. The agreement was apparently
reached at 5 AM on September 9 after an all-night session at
MOFAT.

HOW THEY GOT THERE


--------------------------





4. (C) Japanese PolCouns Yasushi Yamamoto explained that the
GOJ approached this set of negotiations determined to reach
agreement on a scientific survey. He said a MOFA DG spent
all summer preparing a telephone-book-size dossier backing up
Japan's legal right to conduct the surveys. At one point in
the negotiation, the Japanese side put the dossier on the
table and told the ROKG side that Japan would seek
international arbitration under the United Nations Convention
on the Law of the Sea if no agreement could be reached. "We
showed them the gun but we did not pull the trigger."



5. (C) Yamamoto said that MOFAT saw the arbitration threat as
so sensitive that they did not want the Blue House to know
about it; instead they began negotiating in earnest.
Yamamoto clarified that the arbitration request, had it been
carried out, would not have been a request to settle the
territorial or EEZ dispute, but to affirm that the GOJ has
the right to conduct scientific surveys in the disputed
waters. But, he said, MOFAT knew that the Korean public
would not have recognized the distinction and would have been
inflamed at the idea of international arbitration taking up
this emotional territorial issue.



6. (C) Yamamoto did not provide detail on how the two sides
arrived at their agreement for the one-time joint survey, but
he did say that the Korean side came up with the breakthrough
idea of conducting the survey not only at the three seabed
sites inside the disputed waters, but also at three
additional seabed sites in Japanese waters. The three
additional sites were arbitrary: the Korean negotiator had
taken a pen and drawn three dots on the map. From the
Japanese point of view, the three additional sites were a
waste of resources, since there was no known radioactive
contamination there and since there is no data series for
comparison. But Japan recognized the political value of
Korea being able to point to three sites in what were clearly
Japanese waters, in addition to the three sites that Korea
considered were in Korea's EEZ.



7. (C) Japanese Ambassador Shotaro Oshima told the Ambassador
at a September 11 breakfast that Japanese Vice Minister of
Foreign Affairs Shotaro Yachi, who was in Seoul last week for
the decisive period of the negotiations, has good ties to
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary, and expected next Prime
Minister, Shinzo Abe, and called Abe late in the negotiations
to get his approval of the deal.

NEXT STEPS ON EEZ


--------------------------





8. (C) While Yamamoto expressed satisfaction and relief that
the joint survey agreement was reached, he suggested that
problems remained. Japan had wanted the written agreement to
include a statement to the effect that neither country would
conduct further surveys without the other until EEZ
negotiations are complete. The ROK refused to have this
written, leaving it as a kind of "gentleman's agreement."



9. (C) Yamamoto claimed no expertise on planned bilateral EEZ
negotiations, saying only that a formal negotiation session
was expected by year's end. He said that he expected the EEZ
process to be long because the conflicting claims were
complicated, and both countries' parliaments would have to
ratify the resulting treaty.

COMMENT


--------------------------





10. (C) This is a major achievement, introducing a modus
vivendi that will remove, at least for the short term, a
major irritant in the ROK-Japan relationship. South Korean
diplomats are very eager to get this issue behind them. The
problem has always been President Roh Moo-hyun, who has a
tendency to play to traditional anti-Japanese sentiments in
Korea. We understand that it took several days for roh to
give his nod to this agreement.
STANTON