A political crisis of incalculable proportions looms between South Korea and Japan over the fate of South Korean dissident Kim Dae Jung. In Tokyo, Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki has taken the unprecedented step of warning that if Mr. Kim is executed, "Even if we want to continue to cooperate with South Korea, we will be unabel to do so." In a conversation with South Korea Ambassador Choi Kyung Nok, the usually mild-mannered prime minister also said that public opinion in Japan could incline toward increasing exchanges with North Korea in the event of Mr. Kim's execution.
Mr. Kim, former presidential candidate and the most prominent opponent of the present authoritarian South Korean administration, is in a prison cell awaiting the Supreme Court's ruling on his appeal against the death penalty pronounced on him by a military court Sept. 17. He was charged and found guilty of conspiring to overthrow the government.
Mr. Suzuki did not intend his remarks to be made public, but the South Korean press, which is entirely controlled by th Seoul government, has mounted a virulent cmpaign against the Suzuki comments, insisting that they constitute blatant interference in South Korea's domestic affairs.
In the United States, representatives of the incoming Reagan administration also have expressed concern over Mr. Kim's fate, and Ambassador William Gleysteen, who has been in Washington for consultations, may be returning to his post next week armed with evidence that on this issue, there is no division between President Carter and his successor.
Western diplomats in seoul are reported to be inclining toward the belief that President Chun Doo Hwan is likely to order Mr. Kim's execution when the Supreme Court hands down its ruling some time next month.