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War, An International History (Princeton; Princeton University Press, 1995); Shu Guang Zhang Mao's Military Romanticism, China and the Korean War, 1950-1953 (University of Kansas Press, 1995) as well as files this author has read from the Foreign Ministry and Presidential Archive, some of which have been published in CWIHP Bulletin 6/7 (“New Russian Documents on the Korean War”).
2As political officer of the Soviet embassy in Pyongyang, Tunkin played a key role in Moscow's Korea policy prior to the war.
Memorandum to A. Gromyko from G.I.Tunkin, V.Bazykin and A. Shugaev, 13 March 1952. AVPRF, Fond 0102, Opis 8, Delo 17, Papka 36, List 27.
*Memorandum from Vyshinsky to Stalin, with attached draft answers, 12 April 1952. AVPRF Fond 07, Opis 25, Delo 233, Papka 19, Listy 1-14.
SS.Golunsky and G.Tunkin to Vyshinsky, 26 April 1952. AVPRF, F. 07, Op. 27, D. 226, Pap. 46, L. 3-4.
• In November 1949 the DPRK's request that the Soviet Union temporarily transfer to a Korean port two steam shovels located in the Manchurian port of Dalny was handled by deputy foreign minister Gromyko. AVPRF, F. 0102, Op. 5, D. 39, Inv.
326, Pap. 13, L. 1-4, 6-7.
?Shu Guang Zhang, Mao's Military Romanticism, 181-187. In an interview on August 26 Zhang added to his published account the information that Soviet advisers had warned Chinese commanders to be prepared for US use of weapons of mass destruction.
8Chen Jian, China's Road to the Korean War, The Making of the Sino-American Confrontation (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994).
Kathryn Weathersby, “Stalin, Mao and the End of the Korean War," in Odd Arne Westad, ed., Brothers in Arms: The Rise and Fall of the Sino-Soviet Alliance, 1945-1963 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998), pp. 90-116.
10For the text of the decision of the Council of Ministers to reach a negotiated settlement in Korea, adopted 19 March 1953, see Issue No. 6/7 of the Bulletin, pp. 80-82.
"For a discussion of Beria's foreign policy initiatives after Stalin's death see Vojtech Mastny, The Cold War and Soviet Insecurity. The Stalin Years (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 171-190. 12Knight, Beria, p. 92.
New Russian Evidence on the Korean War Biological Warfare
Allegations: Background and Analysis
"For Mao Zedong The Soviet Government and the Central Committee of the CPSU were misled. The spread in the press of information about the use by the Americans of bacteriological weapons in Korea was based on false information. The accusations against the Americans were fictitious."
– Resolution of the Presidium of the Council of Ministers of the USSR about letters to the Ambassador of the USSR in the PRC, V.V. Kuznetsov, and to the Chargé d'Affaires of the USSR in the DPRK, S.P. Suzdalev, 2 May 1953.
By Milton Leitenberg
The major allegation of the use of biological weapons—one of the three categories of weapons
of mass destruction, along with nuclear and chemical weapons—in the Cold War was made during the Korean War against the United States. In 1951 and again in 1952, the People's Republic of China (PRC), North Korea, and the Soviet Union charged that the United States had used a wide range of biological warfare (BW) agents, bacterial and viral pathogens and insect vectors of disease, against China and North Korea. They alleged the use of BW agents against humans, plants, and animals. The charges were organized into a worldwide campaign and pressed at the United Nations; it was scarcely a matter simply of the spread of press information..." US government officials denied the charges, but it has never before been possible to establish definitively whether the charges were true or false.
In January 1998, however, a reporter for the Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun published findings from twelve documents from former Soviet archives that
provide explicit and detailed evidence that the charges were contrived and fraudulent. One document (a fragment of it) is dated 21 February 1952, while the remaining eleven date from 13 April to 2 June 1953, in the four months following Stalin's death on 5 March 1953. While it is clear that the twelve documents are far from a complete history of the events, they nevertheless describe, at least in part, how the allegations were contrived by Chinese officials and Soviet advisors, and identify several of the individuals involved in the
paper provides a brief history of the allegations and a summary of the documents' major disclosures.
On 25 June 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea. Chinese military forces—the “Chinese People's Volunteers" (CPV)-crossed the Yalu River and entered combat beginning in October 1950. In the spring of 1951, Chinese media repeatedly stated that the United States was using chemical weapons (“poison gas") against Chinese
crimes indictment. The second report charged violations of the Geneva Protocol of 1925 and the Genocide Convention of 1948, concluding:
We consider that the facts reported above constitute an act of aggression committed by the United States, an act of genocide, and a particularly odious crime against humanity. It indeed hangs over the whole world as an extremely grave menace, the limits and consequences of which cannot be foreseen.
On 7 April 1952, the Chinese government's own investigating commission issued a report with an even more explicit war crimes accusation:
The U.S. Government, in carrying out savage and vile aggression against the People's Republic of China, has committed not only the crime of aggression but also crimes against humanity and crimes in violation of international conventions and laws and the laws and customs of war.... We demand that those responsible in the U.S. Government and the U.S. Armed Forces and the degenerate elements in American scientific circles be branded as war criminals to be tried by the people throughout the world and severely punished.
forces. (Communist media had already claimed that the US had shipped mustard gas to Korea.) At the same time, China also carried on what can be considered a preparatory campaign to the major allegations that followed, charging that the United States was preparing to use biological weapons. (These two campaigns will both be discussed in more detail below.) The first charge filed of actual BW use came on 8 May 1951. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) sent a cable to the President of the United Nations Security Council alleging the use of bacteriological weapons by US forces in Korea during the period of December 1950 to January 1951 and that the United States had spread smallpox. After several weeks, the issue then essentially lapsed until early 1952.
On 22 February 1952, Bak Hun Yung, North Korea's Foreign Minister, again issued an official statement addressed to the UN Secretariat alleging that Washington had conducted biological warfare. (It was apparently forwarded to the UN only on 29 March 1952.) It charged that the US had carried out air drops of infected insects of several kinds bearing plague, cholera and other diseases over North Korean territory on January 28 and 29, and February 11, 13, 15, 16, and 17. Two days later, on February 24, PRC Foreign Minister Zhou Enlai, publicly supported the North Korean charges. On March 8, Zhou Enlai enlarged the accusations against the United States by charging that the U.S. had sent 448 aircraft on no less than 68 occasions between February 29 and March 5 into Northeast China to airdrop germ-carrying insects. The human diseases alleged to have been spread included plague, anthrax, cholera, encephalitis and a form of meningitis. Zhou Enlai also alleged that Washington had spread animal and plant diseases-fowl septicemia, and eleven incidents involving four different plant diseasesusing 18 different species of insects and arachnids (spiders and ticks), as well as some small rodents as the vectors. He identified infected clams, paper packets, cloth receptacles as well as various kinds of earthenware and metallic sectioned “leaflet bombs” as dispersion media.?
The Chinese and North Korean governments attempted to buttress their allegations through the use of two "international commissions” of their own selection which operated under highly constrained procedures. In September 1951, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers decided to send a commission to Korea to investigate various “violations of international law.” The commission visited North Korea between 5 March and 19 March 1952, immediately after the main BW accusations were made, and then went to China for the following weeks. It issued two reports in Beijing on 31 March and 2 April 1952: Report on U.S. Crimes in Korea, which contained a major emphasis on allegations of chemical weapons use as well as bacterial weapons, and Report on the Use of Bacterial Weapons in Chinese Territory By the Armed Forces of the United States. These reports seem rather clearly intended as a formal war
That same Chinese government commission was reported as having begun its studies on 15 March 1952, and it was presumed to have been the group which gathered the "evidence," the materials and testimony displayed to the second international group convened by the Communist-oriented World Peace Council, the "International Scientific Commission for the Investigation of the Facts Concerning Bacterial Warfare in Korea and China," referred to as the ISC. The Chinese representative to the World Peace Council
...declared that the governments of China and (North) Korea did not consider the International Red Cross Committee sufficiently free from political influence to be capable of instituting an unbiased enquiry in the field. This objection was later extended to the World Health Organization, as a specialized agency of the United Nations.
The ISC was chaired by Dr. Joseph Needham, a wellknown British biochemist who had headed the British Scientific Mission in China from 1942 to 1946. In that period, he had served as an advisor to the (Nationalist) Chinese Army Medical Administration, and had participated in an investigation of Japanese use of BW in China during World War II. Needham was also an avowed Marxist. After visiting North Korea and China from 23 June to 31 August 1952, the ISC also produced a Report of the International Scientific Commission for the Investigation of the Facts Concerning Bacterial Warfare in Korea and China, published in Beijing in 1952. The massive volume contained 669 pages with extensive
background information on entomology, vectors, pathogens, epidemiology, and so forth, little of which the Commission would have been likely to have been able to draw up themselves given their location and the amount of time available. The ISC report documents fewer incidents, and fewer types of incidents, than were reported by the jurists, which in turn were fewer than reported by Chinese media statements.
The “investigations” of both commissions were very similar. They did no field investigations or analyses of their own. They received testimony which they duly accepted and reported as fact. They had no independent corroboration of any of the artifacts and materials presented to them. These elements were explicitly brought out in some of the early discussions which followed the release of the Report of the ISC. The Swedish representative on the Commission
On no occasion did the Chinese or North Korean governments claim to have shot down a US aircraft containing the means of delivery of biological agents or the agents themselves, despite an eventual Chinese claim of 955 sorties by 175 groups of US aircraft over Northeast China to drop BW between 29 February and 31 March 1952 alone. As for Korea, the Chinese claimed that the US had spread BW over “70 cities and counties of Korea...on 804 occasions, according to incomplete statistics.” The Chinese did obtain the confessions of some 25 captured US pilots. Many of the confessions included voluminous detail about the alleged delivery of BW: the kinds of bombs and other containers dropped, the types of insects, the diseases they carried, and so forth. Interspersed with the enormous technical detail was a great deal of Communist rhetoric identical to that which appeared in the standard Chinese press reports at the time, with references to “imperialists" and "capitalistic Wall Street war monger[s],” etc., which led nearly all observers to doubt that any of the confessions had been written by those supposedly testifying to them. All the confessions were renounced when the US airmen returned to the United States. Prisoners who had been ground troops “admitted” to the ISC that they had delivered BW by artillery-"epidemic germ shells"-in Korea.
...told the press in September 1952, after returning from China: "The scientific foundation of the Commission's work consisted of the fact that the delegates implicitly believed the Chinese and North Korean accusations and evidence.” Dr. Needham himself was asked at a press conference what proof he had that the samples of plague bacillus he was shown actually came, as the Chinese said, from an unusual swarm of voles, and he replied, as reported in the Daily Herald: “None. We accepted the word of the Chinese scientists. It is possible to maintain that the whole thing was a kind of patriotic conspiracy. I prefer to believe the Chinese were not acting parts...
During the Korean War, units of the CPV and the North Korean People's Army (KPA) routinely suffered from typhus, cholera, and dysentery. In addition, en route to North Korea, the CPV forces had transited Manchuria, an area with endemic plague at the time. United Nations forces, as well as Koreans and Chinese combatants, also suffered from Korean Hemorraghic Fever. In the late winter of 1950 and the early spring of 1951, smallpox and typhus were reported throughout Korea, north and south. The UN command responded with mass inoculations and heavy applications of DDT to individuals, and DDT aerial spraying to the countryside at large. In the north, thousands of Chinese health care workers were dispatched to the area behind the front lines, and Hungarian and East German volunteer hospital units were also sent to Korea. What subsequently became known as Korean Hemorraghic Fever had not been known in Korea before, but it was endemic in areas in Manchuria through which CPV forces had passed, and in which those North Korean contingents that had been parts of the PLA before 1949 and formed the shock troops of the North Korean invasion force had been stationed. It was precisely in a strip in central Korea in which these North Korean troops had been engaged in combat and which was subsequently reoccupied by UN forces that Korean Hemorraghic Fever then remained endemic.
The Historical Context of the Chinese and North Korean BW Allegations
There are several important pieces of historical background that are highly relevant to the Korean War BW charges which must be recounted, as they form a chain leading up to the allegations. The first of these is that Japan carried out a substantial biological warfare program within China during World War II. It consisted of an extensive series of BW research facilities throughout occupied Chinese territory, as well as the operational use of BW in China. The most well-known portion of the Japanese program was Unit 731, based in Manchuria and commanded by Gen. Shiro Ishii. However, there were three additional BW organizations, Unit 100, Unit Ei 1644, and one more, each acting independently and each under its own commanding officers. Most of the senior military officers and officials of these units made their way back to Japan in the final days of the war in the Pacific. Their most senior officers were subsequently interrogated in Japan by US military intelligence, and a crucial and extremely unfortunate decision was made which may have done much to enhance the credibility of the subsequent Korean War BW allegations: The US government granted immunity to Gen. Ishii, all of his subordinates, and members of the other Japanese BW units in exchange for the technical information obtained by the Japanese in the course of their wartime BW R&D program. Even before the Korean War began, Chinese media carried stories recounting Japanese BW in World War II and accusing the US and Japan of preparing for biological warfare. These charges usually were included
in fact purchase Japanese-made vaccines for publichealth use in South Korea.) In the North Korean government's charges, the United States was also accused of using KPA and CPV prisoners of war for bacteriological warfare experimentation on "Kochzheko" island in collaboration with Japanese “bacteriological warfare criminals” (United Nations Security Council document S/2684; the reference is presumably to Koje Island).
in protests against the “remilitarization" of Japan.
The second important point is that as they occupied portions of Manchuria, Soviet military forces captured some members of Unit 731. After requesting that the US turn over additional senior officials from that organization and being denied, the USSR tried twelve former members of Unit 731 in a war crimes trial in December 1949 in the city of Khabarovsk. The USSR then requested that the United States release Gen. Ishii, together with Emperor Hirohito, to be put on trial as well, a request that the US government also rejected. At the time of the trial, on two occasions Gen. MacArthur's command falsely denied any knowledge of Japanese BW operations in China during the war. In reporting on the Khabarovsk trial, Pravda stated that the United States was "preparing for new crimes against humanity," i.e., bacteriological warfare. In the spring of 1950, before the outbreak of the war in Korea, there followed a series of Soviet media reports charging that the US was preparing for “bacteriological warfare." The proceedings of the trial were published in English. The evidence obtained from those put on trial provided Soviet (and Chinese) officials with detailed technical descriptions of the BW delivery systems and methods that the Japanese had developed in China during the war. Three years later, these were precisely the methods that they alleged the United States to have used during the Korean War. The opening substantive chapter of the 1952 ISC Report is titled, “The Relevance of Japanese Bacterial Warfare in World War II.”
The third link in the chain is that in the first five months of 1951, the Chinese press and radio made repeated references to Gen. Ishii and the Japanese wartime BW programs, the Khabarovsk trial, Gen. Ishii's subsequent employment by the United States, and the claim that the United States was preparing to use BW in the Korean War:10
This sequence culminated in the 8 May 1951 statement by the North Korean Foreign Minister that the United States was spreading smallpox in North Korea. There were further Chinese statements on May 19, May 24, and May 25, saying that the United States was “preparing to use germ warfare,” and repeating in particular the charges that the US used POWs (in this case Korean) for BW “laboratory tests” and as “guinea pigs.” After one last statement on 22 June 1951, the Chinese campaign ended, although some North Korean statements continued into July, and then they too ceased.
The last of these aspects is that concurrent with the above propaganda campaign in the spring of 1951, the Chinese government also initiated a campaign between 5 March and 13 May 1951 charging the United States with using poison gas in the Korean War." In addition to a series of media reports, this included an “Appeal" by Dr. Li Teh-Chuan, the director of the Red Cross Society of China, to the Executive Committee of the International League of Red Cross Societies meeting on 14 March 1951, formally accusing the United States of having used both bacterial weapons and poison gas:
After suffering repeated defeats in Korea ... the American invaders have ignored world opinion and have openly violated international law by using poison gas on the Korean front ... In the name of the Red Cross Society of China, I firmly protest to American authorities and all 100 million members of the Red Cross Societies in 68 countries throughout the world to raise their voices for justice and to take action to prevent the atrocity of using poison gas by the American imperialists in their war of aggression in Korea.'2
On 9 January 1951, that MacArthur and his command had protected Japanese war criminals, particularly Ishii, and employed him and his colleagues;
On 7 March 1951, that Ishii had been hired by the American government “to supervise the manufacture of germ warfare weapons in America;"
On 22 March 1951, that “MacArthur is now engaged in large-scale production of bacteriological weapons for use against the Korean Army and people," and specifying the amount of money that MacArthur's headquarters had allegedly spent for their bacteria growth media;
On 30 April 1951, that “the American forces are using Chinese People's Volunteers as guinea pigs for their bacteriological experiments,” and identifying a site near Kyoto where the BW agents were allegedly being produced. (The Kyoto site was a Japanese vaccine production facility that had survived World War II; during the Korean War, the United States did
The Chinese alleged the use of "poison gas artillery shells" in addition to presumed delivery by aircraft, and announced that “poisonous shells have been collected and photographed." Radio Moscow and the New China News Agency reported that “Lt. Love Moss of the 24th Division, artillery, had admitted that the US was using gas." The only gas mentioned by name in the charges was chlorine gas. Chlorine is the least useful for military purposes as it is rarely lethal at the concentrations that can be achieved on the battlefield.
It was already noted that the charge of having used chemical weapons was stressed in the “Report on U.S. Crimes in Korea," produced by the International
millions of signatures in Western Europe as well as in other parts of the world. During the 1952 campaign an “Appeal Against Bacteriological Warfare" modeled on it was issued on April 1.
Neither the People's Republic of China nor North Korea belonged to the United Nations. It therefore fell to the USSR to press the allegations in the UN, and it seems evident that it was the USSR that arranged for the international protests through Communist parties, the World Peace Council, and other front organizations. There also seems to have been substantial media coordination between the USSR and China, as well as coordination of a more instrumental sort.3 The propaganda campaign also combined with others going on concurrently: In early 1951, the Director of the USSR's Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute had launched a domestic “Hate the Americans” (or “Hate America") campaign, and the 22 February 1952 announcement of the BW allegations followed a day after the celebration of an “international day of the fight against colonialism.” In the four weeks between mid-March and mid-April 1952, the Soviet press devoted one-quarter of its coverage to the BW allegations. In China, in roughly the same period, newspaper treatment of germ warfare was more extensive than that previously devoted to the entire Korean War. Notably, the U.S.-Japanese peace treaty was due for ratification on 28 April 1952.
Association of Democratic Lawyers. This report, however, states that chemical weapon use took place between 6 May 1951 and 9 January 1952. However, the Chinese campaign first began charging the US with CW use on March 5, and did so on ten occasions before 6 May 1951. In February 1952, the Soviet delegate to the UN, Jacob Malik, also accused the US of using chemical weapons in Korea. Chinese charges of US use of chemical weapons continued sporadically until May 1953. However, when the report of the second group, the International Scientific Commission, appeared only six months after the jurists' report, it did not contain any mention of alleged uses of chemical weapons. It also contained no mention whatsoever of alleged use of Chinese or Korean POWs for BW experiments.
There was never much question that there was no validity to the 1951 charges of chemical weapons use, and they were not repeated during the period of the major BW allegations in 1952. Those in the West who professed to believe the BW allegations into the 1960s and 1970s never mentioned the early accompanying allegations of chemical weapon use.
Two final points remain to be noted. In the late spring and early summer of 1950, just prior to the start of the war in Korea, there was also a campaign of allegations that the United States was dropping Colorado beetles in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), Poland, and Czechoslovakia in order to destroy their potato crops, "starve" their people, and induce the "economic collapse" of the countries. As biological warfare includes the use of disease agents or vectors that affect man, animals or crops, this too was a charge of the use of biological weapons. East German authorities released a report submitted on 15 June 1950, by Paul Merker, State Secretary in the GDR Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, alleging that US aircraft had dropped Colorado potato beetles from May to June of 1950. No evidence was offered, but it was stated that the beetles had been found under the routes taken by US aircraft. Eastern European media printed photographs of “potato bug containers” allegedly attached to parachutes and balloons. In May 1951, the Czechoslovak Minister of Agriculture charged that "Western imperialists this year again are spreading the Colorado beetle in our fields, this time as far east as Slovakia.” And in May 1952, Moscow claimed that one of the pilots from whom a confession had been obtained in Korea had also admitted to dropping Colorado beetles over East Germany in 1950. In the years that followed, Polish and GDR school children were regularly sent on excursions to Baltic beaches to search for the beetles.
In 1950, the USSR and the East European Communist parties also launched the Stockholm Appeal (or Stockholm Peace Petition) which demanded the "unconditional prohibition of the atomic weapon as a weapon of aggression." The Appeal, which also linked nuclear weapons with the two other categories of weapons of mass destruction—biological and chemical weapons obtained
U.S. Denials and U.N. Disputes
The first official US denial came on 4 March 1952, in response to the February 22 accusations by the North Korean Foreign Minister. US Secretary of State Dean Acheson said, “I would ... like to state categorically and unequivocally that these charges are entirely false; the UN forces have not used, are not using, any sort of bacteriological warfare.”!4 Acheson repeated the denials on March 26 and on other occasions. General Matthew Ridgeway, Commander of the UN forces in Korea, denied the charges by mid-March, adding, “These charges are evidently designed to conceal the Communists' inability to cope with the spread of epidemics which occur annually throughout China and North Korea and to care properly for the many victims."'l5 And in an address to the US Congress on 22 May 1952, Ridgeway stated that "no element of the United Nations Command has employed either germ or gas warfare in any form at any time."16 UN Secretary-General Trygve Lie also denied the allegations. On 14 March 1953, after Soviet representative to the UN Malik introduced the bacterial warfare charges into the work of the UN Disarmament Commission, the US delegate, Benjamin Cohen, repeated the American denials. When the Soviet delegation distributed the “confessions” of captured US pilots in the UN General Assembly's First Committee, Gen. Omar Bradley, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, submitted a denial (on 25 March 1953), as did the commanding officers of the Marine Air Wings to which the pilots had belonged."?
Of equal importance to the official US denials is the