SovArch 2

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Thu Oct 29 17:37:30 PST 1998

Document IV: Ciphered telegram from Tunkin to Soviet Foreign Ministry (in reply to telegram of September 11), 14 September 1949

[He reports that he had meetings with Kim Il Sung and Pak Hon-yong on September 12 and 13 about the questions raised in the telegram of September 11 and gives their response--K.W.] 1. [Information about South Korean army, providing many figures--K.W.] 2. [Information about partisan units in South Korea, numbering 1,500-2,000 men--K.W.] Kim thinks they should not count on substantial help from the partisans, but Pak Hon-yong has a different opinion. He thinks the help [from partisans] will be significant. At any rate, they hope that the partisans will help in actions against the communications of the enemy and that they will occupy the main ports of South Korea, though they will not be able to do this at the beginning of the campaign, maybe later. 3. With regard to the question of how the population will regard the fact that the northerners will begin a civil war, Kim Il Sung oscillates. During the conversation on September 12 he definitely stated that if the northerners begin military actions, this will produce a negative impression in the people and that it is politically disadvantageous to them to begin it. In connection with this he recollected that during the conversation between Mao Zedong and the Korean representative Kim Il29 in the spring of this year Mao stated that in his opinion the northerners should not begin military action now, since in the first place, it is politically disadvantageous and in the second place, the Chinese friends are occupied at home and cannnot give them serious help. The thinking of Kim Il Sung amounts to waiting until the conclusion of the main [military] operations in China. In the conversation on September 13 Kim Il Sung, under the clear influence of Ho Ka-i (a Soviet Korean, secretary of the Central Committee of the Labor Party,30 who participated in the second conversation in order to translate), declared that the people will welcome an armed attack by the northerners and that if they begin military actions they will not lose politically because of this. Later in the course of the conversation Kim Il Sung stated that if a civil war is drawn out, then they will be in a politically disadvantageous position.31 And since under present conditions it is impossible to count on a rapid victory, he does not propose to begin a civil war, but only to secure the Ongjin peninsula and a portion of the territory of South Korea to the east of this peninsula, for example to Kaidzio. They consider that in case of a civil war the population of South Korea will be sympathetic toward the northern army and will help it. In the case of successful military actions they hope to organize a number of uprisings in South Korea. 4. According to official data, there are 500 American military advisers and instructors in South Korea. According to secret service information, which needs confirmation, there are 900 American military advisers and instructors and 1500 soldiers and security officers in South Korea. In case of a civil war in Korea, the Americans, in the opinion of Kim Il Sung and Pak Hon-yong, can: send Japanese and Chinese [soldiers] to the aid of the southerners32; support [the South Koreans] from the sea and air with their own means; American instructors will take immediate part in organizing military actions. 5. The North Korean army numbers 97,500 men (including the air force and coastal defense units). The army has 64 tanks, 59 armored cars, 75 airplanes. The police force in the north numbers 23,200 men. Kim considers that the northern army is superior to the southern army in its technical equipment (tanks, artillery, planes), its discipline, the training of the officers and troops, and also in its moral-political relations. In the northern army there are a number of insufficiencies: insufficient number and weak preparation of pilots, insufficient number of ships, large caliber arms are unprepared for military operations, insufficient military supplies. The proposal of Kim Il Sung amounts to the following: at the beginning to strike the South Korean army on the Ongjin peninsula, to destroy the two regiments located there, to occupy the territory of the peninsula and the territory to the east of it, for example to Kaidzio, and then to see what to do further. After this blow the South Korean army may become demoralized. In this case move further to the south. If the South Korean army is not demoralized as a result of the Ongjin operation, to seal the borders seized, to shorten in that way the line of defense approximately by one third. It is not possible to hurry with the operation on the Ongjin peninsula. [It is necessary] to wait until additional arms arrive from the Soviet Union. Meanwhile [we must] consolidate the defenses on the remaining portions of the 38th parallel. Kim Il Sung admits the possibility of the Ongjin operation turning into a civil war, but he hopes that this does not happen, since the southerners, in his opinion, do not dare to attack other portions of the 38th parallel. Our formulations. The partial operation outlined by Kim Il Sung can and will probably turn into a civil war between north and south. There are more than a few supporters of civil war in the leading circles of both the north and the south. Therefore, in beginning this partial operation it is necessary to calculate that it might be the beginning of a civil war. Is it advisable to the north to begin a civil war now? We propose that this is not advisable. The northern army is insufficiently strong to carry out successful and rapid operations against the south. Even taking into account the help which will be rendered to the northern army by the partisans and the population of South Korea it is impossible to count on a rapid victory. Moreover, a drawn out civil war is disadvantageous for the north both militarily and politically. In the first place, a drawn out war gives the possibility to the Americans to render corresponding aid to Syngmann Rhee. After their lack of success in China, the Americans probably will intervene in Korean affairs more decisively than they did in China and, it goes without saying, apply all their strength to save Syngmann Rhee.33 Further, in case of a drawn out civil war the military casualties, suffering and adversity may elicit in the population a negative mood toward the one who began the war. Moreover, a drawn out war in Korea could be used by the Americans for purposes of agitation against the Soviet Union and for further inflaming war hysteria. Therefore, it is inadvisable that the north begin a civil war now. Given the present internal and external situation a decision about an attack on the south would be correct only in such case as the northerners could count on ending the war quickly; the preconditions for it are not there. But if the indicated partial operation were crowned with success and did not lead to civil war, then in this case the northerners, while having won strategically, would lose politically in many regards. Such an operation would be used to accuse the northerners of trying to inflame a fratricidal war. It would also be used for the purpose of further increasing American and international interference in Korean affairs in the interests of the south. We propose that under the indicated conditions to begin the partial operation conceived by Kim Il Sung is inadvisable.

Document VII: Ciphered telegram from Stalin to Shtykov, 30 January 1950

1. I received your report. I understand the dissatisfaction of Comrade Kim Il Sung, but he must understand that such a large matter in regard to South Korea such as he wants to undertake needs large preparation. The matter must be organized so that there would not be too great a risk. If he wants to discuss this matter with me, then I will always be ready to receive him and discuss with him. Transmit all this to Kim Il Sung and tell him that I am ready to help him in this matter. 2. I have a request for Comrade Kim Il Sung. The Soviet Union is experiencing a great insufficiency in lead. We would like to receive from Korea a yearly minimum of 25,000 tons of lead. Korea would render us a great assistance if it could yearly send to the Soviet Union the indicated amount of lead. I hope that Kim Il Sung will not refuse us in this. It is possible that Kim Il Sung needs our technical assistance and some number of Soviet specialists. We are ready to render this assistance. Transmit this request of mine to comrade Kim Il Sung and ask him for me, to communicate to me his consideration on this matter. [Source: AVP RF, Fond 059a, Opis 5a, Delo 3, Papka 11, list 92.]

And one final document, a translation of an internal Kremlin memo from 1966...

TOP SECRET mb-04339/gs 9 August 1966

copies to: Brezhnev (2), Kosygin (2), Gromyko, Kuznetsov,

Kovalev, Kornienko, Sudarikov, IDU, UVI, OIuVA (2), file (2)

On the Korean War, 1950-53, and the Armistice Negotiations

I. [Background to and Preparations for First Stage of the War] After separate elections in 1948 in South Korea and the formation of the puppet government of Rhee Syngman, on the one hand, and the formation of the DPRK, on the other, relations between the North and the South of the country were sharply aggravated. The Seoul regime, as well as the DPRK, declared its claim to be the authority in all of Korea. The situation at the 38th parallel became even more tense in 1948 after the withdrawal of Soviet and American troops from Korea. During this period, Kim Il Sung and other Korean leaders were firmly determined to unify the country by military means, without devoting the necessary attention to studying the possibility that existed at that time for peaceful reunification through the broad development of the democratic movement in South Korea. In the DPRK, a people's army was created which in manpower and equipment significantly surpassed the armed forces of South Korea. By January 1, 1950, the total number of DPRK troops was 110,000; new divisions were hastily being formed.19 Calculating that the USA would not enter a war over South Korea, Kim Il Sung persistently pressed for agreement from Stalin and Mao Zedong to reunify the country by military means. (telegrams #4-51, 233, 1950) Stalin at first treated the persistent appeals of Kim Il Sung with reserve, noting that "such a large affair in relation to South Korea ... needs much preparation," but he did not object in principle. The final agreement to support the plans of the Koreans was given by Stalin at the time of Kim Il Sung's visit to Moscow in March-April 1950. Following this, in May, Kim Il Sung visited Beijing and secured the support of Mao. The Korean government envisioned realizing its goal in three stages: 1) concentration of troops near the 38th parallel 2) issuing an appeal to the South for peaceful unification 3) initiating military activity after the South's rejection of the proposal for peaceful unification. At Stalin's order, all requests of the North Koreans for delivery of arms and equipment for the formation of additional units of the KPA [Korean People's Army] were quickly met. The Chinese leadership sent to Korea a division formed from Koreans who had been serving in the Chinese army, and promised to send food aid and to transfer one army closer to Korea "in case the Japanese enter on the side of South Korea." (telegram 362, 1950) By the end of May 1950 the General Staff of the KPA together with Soviet military advisers announced the readiness of the Korean army to begin concentration at the 38th parallel. At the insistence of Kim Il Sung, the beginning of military activity was scheduled for June 25, 1950. (telegram 408, 1950) By the time of the attack, the North Korean armed forces had significant superiority over the South Koreans. The correlation of forces between South and North Korea was as follows: in number of troops 1:2; number of guns 1:2; machine-guns 1:7; submachine guns, 1:13; tanks 1:6.5; planes 1:6. The operational plan of the KPA envisioned that Korean troops would advance 15-20 kilometers per day and would in the main complete military activity within 22-27 days. (telegram 468, 1950) [Here follows a brief factual account of the course of the war through October 1950, from the initial successes of the KPA in June, July, and August, through their near defeat following the U.S./U.N. amphibious landing at Inchon in September-K.W.] During this period, which was an ordeal for the Korean people, the Central Committee of the Korean Worker's Party and the government of the DPRK worked strenuously on the formation of new military units, using the territory of China as well for this purpose. The most steadfast of the KPA units that were surrounded in the South carried on partisan combat in the mountains.

II. Entry of the Chinese into the Korean War During Kim Il Sung's visit to Beijing in May 1950, Mao Zedong, in conversation with him, underscored his conviction that the Americans would not become engaged in a war "for such a small territory as Korea" and stated that the Chinese government would transfer one of their armies to the region of Mukden in order to render the necessary assistance in case the South Koreans drew Japanese soldiers into military action. The Chinese leadership based their calculation on the fact that the American troops would not take part in the war, and they did not intend to aid the DPRK by means of the entrance of a large number of their troops. In August 1950 American planes began bombing Chinese territory near the Yalu. In October 1950, soon after the American landing at Inchon, the front line moved close to the Korean-Chinese border and the enemy's artillery began to fire on Chinese territory. Ships of the American Seventh Fleet entered the Taiwan Straits. By that time the Korean People's Army had virtually disintegrated as a fighting force. Remnants of military units that escaped encirclement were making their way toward China to regroup. The Chinese government, under pressure from Stalin, adopted the decision to send volunteers to Korea only after a real threat to the security of China had arisen and the very existence of the DPRK had been called into question. The entry of Chinese volunteers into Korea began in the second half of October 1950. Subsequently, the total number of Chinese troops in Korea was brought to 1 million men; approximately the same number of men were sent to Korea to transport military cargo. (transmission of Soviet Embassy in Beijing #7, January 18, 1952) By the end of 1951, the strength of the Korean People's Army was brought to 337,000 men. On the other side, 700,000 officers and soldiers participated in ground operations, including 380,000 South Koreans and 280,000 American troops, not counting American naval and air forces, which blockaded Korea from the sea. The entry of the Chinese volunteers into the war and the active participation of Soviet military advisers, who participated in the planning of all major offensive operations, brought about a vital breakthrough in the course of military events. American and South Korean troops were thrown back to the 38th parallel, and in several places even further southward. Chinese troops, operating on the Western front, occupied Seoul at the beginning of January 1951. However, Chinese troops, following the strategic line of the leadership of the PRC to preserve the front at the 38th parallel (one may suppose that Mao Zedong was afraid of the consequences of a further advance to the south), left Seoul and withdrew to the north. They did not support the efforts of the Korean units on the eastern front to dislodge American troops from the area along the northern side of the 38th parallel. During this period of the war, sharp disagreements arose between Kim Il Sung and the command of the Chinese people's volunteers, led by Peng Dehuai. The Koreans were against the surrender of Seoul by the Chinese volunteers and reproached them for not supporting the Korean units on the eastern front. During the time that Chinese volunteers were in Korea there were numerous cases of Chinese interference in the internal affairs of the DPRK. Studying the morale of the Korean population, they sent reports to the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party which underscored the poor conditions of the population and criticized the policies of the Korean authorities. The Chinese attempted to draw towards themselves the commanders of the KPA. Illustrative in this regard is the affair of Pak Il-u, chief representative of the KPA in the headquarters of the Chinese volunteers. Kim Il Sung more than once declared that Pak Il-u was behaving as the personal representative of Mao Zedong, trying to disparage the authority of the leadership of the Korean Worker's Party, placing himself above the party. The Chinese inflamed any sort of intrigue, using Pak Il-u against Kim Il Sung. Peng Dehuai was not ashamed to express his low opinion of the military capabilities of Kim Il Sung. Cases of great power manners were observed, obvious scorn toward Koreans by Chinese commanders. Once Kim Il Sung was stopped by Chinese sentries when he went to Peng Dehuai's headquarters, and was detained by them for a long time. Local Korean authorities complained that the commanders of the Chinese volunteers frequently arbitrarily forced the population into construction work, indiscriminate felling of forests, slaughtering of livestock, etc. Numerous Koreans lay the blame on China for the retreat of the KPA and its huge losses, declaring that "if the Chinese help had arrived a month earlier, everything would have turned out differently." Korean leaders said at that time that if it had not been for the Chinese position, it would have been possible to expel the Americans from the Korean peninsula and unify the whole country during the successful attack of the Chinese volunteers in the winter of 1950-51. In all of this the Chinese volunteers, as is known, played an important role in the breakthrough in the military situation and in the retention of the front at the 38th parallel. Their losses for the first year of the Korean war alone were more than 300,000 men. The Chinese leadership, making use of the volunteers' long stay in Korea, tried to strengthen their long-term influence in the DPRK. After the signing of the armistice in Korea on July 27, 1953, the Chinese volunteers remained in Korea for more than five years. It was the end of October 1958 before they returned to their homeland, under pressure from the Koreans. The Chinese leaders even now, in every way possible, use the participation of the volunteers in the war in Korea to pressure the DPRK into supporting their adventuristic positions...

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