Japan from the inside out

James Van Fleet

Posted by ampontan on Friday, August 17, 2012

AT the time of his death in 1992 at the age of 100, James Van Fleet was the oldest living general officer in the United States. He was a four-star general with a distinguished career in both Europe and East Asia.

In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower sent him on a special diplomatic mission to South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and The Philippines. His report on that mission to the president was declassified more than 30 years later.

Here is an excerpt of that report. It is titled “Ownership of Dokto Island”.

“The Island of Dokto (otherwise called Liancourt and Take Shima) is in the Sea of Japan approximately midway between Korea and Honshu…This Island is, in fact, only a group of barren, uninhabited rocks. When the Treaty of Peace with Japan was being drafted, the Republic of Korea asserted its claims to Dokto but the United States concluded that they remained under Japanese sovereignty and the Island was not included among the Islands that Japan released from its ownership under the Peace Treaty.

“The Republic of Korea has been confidentially informed of the United States position regarding the islands, but our position has not been made public. Though the United States considers that the islands are Japanese territory, we have declined to interfere in the dispute. Our position has been that the dispute might properly be referred to the International Court of Justice and this suggestion has been informally conveyed to the Republic of Korea.”

Looks like the Republic of Korea didn’t take the American advice, did they?

In 1957, Gen. Van Fleet was the leader of a group who founded the Korean Society, described as “the first nonprofit organization in the United States dedicated to the promotion of friendly relations between the peoples of the United States and Korea ‘through mutual understanding and appreciation of their respective cultures, aims, ideals, arts, sciences and industries.'”

After he died in 1992, the Korea Society instituted the annual James Van Fleet Award to recognize people who have made outstanding contributions to U.S.-Korea ties.

Yet people in South Korea — native Koreans and foreigners both — have lost their jobs for agreeing with Gen. Van Fleet and stating publicly that the islets are Japanese territory. That includes university professors, whose job is nominally to conduct research and determine the truth.

It’s a funny old world, isn’t it?

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