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which records still, alas, remain unavail- prescribed in the General Staff's plan, and Stalin's rather rude message to Mao able), Kim Il Sung traveled to Beijing in that Soviet advisers participated in recon- Zedong on July 8 (document #21) appears to May 1950 in order to secure Mao Zedong's naissance and in planning the operation at have been a further attempt to prod the approval for the planned offensive. Docu- the divisional level. However, Soviet advis- Chinese to move toward entering the war. ments #11 and #13 show that in his discus- ers were apparently withdrawn from the Stalin was also quite brusque in his message sions with Kim Il Sung, Mao Zedong was front line before the attack began, with nega- to Mao on July 13, indicating that he had not considerably less worried about the possi- tive consequences for the efficiency of the been informed whether the Chinese had debility of military conflict with the United operation. This accords with Khrushchev's cided to deploy troops on the Korean border States than was the Soviet leadership, argu- recollection that Stalin pulled back Soviet and offering again to provide air cover. He ing that “the Americans will not enter a third advisers from the front at the last minute, out also informed Beijing that he intended to world war for such a small territory.” It also of fear that they might be taken prisoner and train Chinese pilots in two to three months appears that in May 1950 Kim Il Sung, thus expose Soviet participation in the op- and to transfer the necessary equipment to perhaps to counter the oppressive Soviet eration.6
them, presumably for use in Korea. On influence in North Korea, took a tentative Consistent with his withdrawal of So- August 27, Stalin informed PRC Foreign step toward the strategy he later used so viet advisers from the front, Stalin's queries Minister Zhou Enlai (document #26) that he extensively of playing China and the Soviet to Shtykov on July 1 (document #15) indi- would send 38 air force and air defense Union against one another. He reported to cate that he was agitated and nervous about specialists to China. These advisers and the Soviet Ambassador Shtykov that he had at the situation in Korea following the Ameri- large amounts of equipment that accompafirst intended to ask Mao for ammunition for can entry into the war. Shtykov's reply nied them were the first installment of what the Korean troops that had recently been (document #16) cautiously raises the ques- became massive Soviet support in constructtransferred from China to North Korea tion that was at the root of the Soviet leader's ing an air force for the PRC, a process which (whose weapons were of Japanese and anxiety, namely the possibility that a disas- continued throughout the Korean War. American manufacture rather than Soviet) ter in Korea might draw Soviet troops into Stalin's message to Kim Il Sung on 28 but he decided not to raise the issue after all, combat against American armed forces. August 1950 (document #27) is particularly since he was informed that the KPA had Shtykov reports that Kim Il Sung and North
Shtykov reports that Kim Il Sung and North revealing of the Soviet leader's approach to sufficient ammunition. Furthermore, he had Korean Foreign Minister Pak Hon Yong the difficult situation created by American no other requests to make of Mao “since all "understand the difficulties for Korea elic- entry into the Korean War. While North his requests were satisfied in Moscow and ited by the entrance of the Americans into Korea was suffering saturation bombing by the necessary and sufficient assistance was the war" and "are taking the necessary mea- American planes, Stalin exhorted Kim Il given him there." sures to stabilize human and material re
Sung to take courage from the example of Shtykov's telegram to Vyshinsky on sources,” though some in the DPRK leader- he Red Army's triumph against great odds May 12 (document #13), reveals that before ship were inquiring about possible Soviet in the civil war of 1918-20 and the great war departing Pyongyang the following day for entry into the war.
against Germany of 1941-45. He offered to Beijing, Kim Il Sung reported to Shtykov We see that as early as the first week of send additional aircraft for the small North that he had ordered the chief of the general July, Stalin began the strategy toward the Korean air force, but did not suggest sending staff to prepare his forces for the military war in Korea that he was to continue for the Soviet air force units or ground forces. Avoidoperation against the South and that he wished remainder of the conflict. In order to avoid ing military confrontation with the United to begin the operation in June, though he did committing Soviet troops to fight the Ameri- States remained the Soviet leader's forenot know if they would be ready by then. cans in Korea, he encouraged the Chinese most concern. Unfortunately, the documents from the Presi- leadership to take steps toward entering the Stalin's difficult and dramatic negotiadential Archive in Moscow are quite sparse war should the tide of battle turn against the tions with the Chinese leadership in October for the crucial period of April-June 1950 and DPRK. Chen Jian revealed in his recent 1950 over the entry of Chinese armed forces prospects for gaining access to those records book that the Chinese leadership decided into the war in Korea is the subject of a in the near future are not encouraging. Many on July 7 and 10 to send troops to the Korean
on July 7 and 10 to send troops to the Korean separate article in this issue by Alexandre important questions about how the North border to prepare for possible intervention in Mansourov. I have therefore omitted those Korean offensive was planned thus remain Korea; discussion about sending troops to documents from this selection, but will point obscure. However, a British Broadcasting Korea thus began well before the UN ad- out that the terms of Chinese entry—that the Corporation documentary team that con- vance into North Korea in early October. PRC would provide troops, the USSR mateducted research on the Korean War in Russia Stalin's telegram to the Soviet ambassador riel and advisers, and China would pay the in 1994 has discovered a revealing report on in Beijing on July 5 (document #18) reveals Soviet Union for all military supplies-enthe preparations for the attack and the first that in advance of those mid-July meetings, gendered considerable bitterness on the part day of the operation. Written by Shtykov the Beijing leadership consulted with Stalin
the Beijing leadership consulted with Stalin of the Chinese leadership. Stalin's approach and addressed to the head of the special about the proposed troop transfer. Stalin to the armistice negotiations, which will be Soviet military mission sent to North Korea informed PRC Foreign Minister Zhou Enlai discussed below, and his insistence on timely to oversee the operation, this report (docu- on July 5 that he approved of the plan and and high payments for military supplies to ment #14) reveals that troop concentration also promised to try to provide air cover for China during the Korean War, thus constiwas carried out from June 12 to June 23, as the Chinese troops.
tuted an important cause of the eventual
collapse of the Sino-Soviet alliance. Mao, S.E. Zakharov, reported on 2 Novem- These documents corroborate the im
Resuming the story in late October 1950, ber 1950 (document #35) on the results of the pression produced by recently-disclosed document #31, the Politburo decision of 25 first day of combat between Soviet and Chinese sources that Mao Zedong and Peng October 1950, suggests that the Soviet lead- American pilots. Zakharov's report also Dehuai played the central role in operational ership worried that the United States might reveals that Korean pilots were still flying in planning during the Korean War (e.g. docuuse the war in Korea as a pretext for rearm- November 1950, from bases in Manchuria, 9 ments #50, 54-57). They kept Stalin ining Japan. Stalin's continued fear of a and that American planes were bombing air formed of the military situation and of proresurgent Japan may seem surprising, but in bases in Manchuria as well as targets in posed operations and asked his advice when1947 the U.S. military had considered re- North Korea.
ever a question of the “international situaarming Japan to buttress the forces available Soviet air force units in Korea proved to tion" was involved, such as in planning the along the Soviet Pacific border, a move be highly effective against American bomb- “fourth operation”—a possible offensive vigorously opposed by the Soviet represen- ers and fighter planes. 10 On 15 November in late January 1951 (document #56) or in tative to the Far Eastern Commission. Fur- 1950 (document #38), Mao expressed his general strategic planning in early June 1951 thermore, two weeks after the North Korean appreciation to Stalin for the heroism of the (documents #66, 67). The documents also attack on South Korea, U.S. Gen. Douglas Soviet pilots guarding the Yalu crossings, reveal that Stalin offered advice on military MacArthur ordered the Japanese prime min- who had shot down 23 American planes in planning whenever he wished, such as on 5 ister to create a “National Police Reserve" the previous 12 days. Mao's message also June 1951 (document #65), and that he interof 75,000 men, some of whom were, in fact, reveals that Stalin reinforced Soviet air sup- vened more often and more directly with the deployed to Korea. (At the same time, port by sending additional MiG-15's to China command of North Korean troops than with analogous moves toward constituting a West and creating a command apparatus for the air the Chinese (documents #19, 58, 59, 61). German military contribution to the West- corps. Over the next few months Soviet air While the Chinese leadership had priern alliance were stepped up.) We have no force involvement in Korea grew to quite mary responsibility for managing the battlerecord of Japanese participation in the battles substantial proportions. 11 Nonetheless, Stalin field, the Soviet leadership played the cenreferred to in the Soviet statement cited continued to attempt to minimize the damage tral role in formulating diplomatic strategy here, but forty-six minesweepers with 1,200 to Soviet interests that might ensue from the for the communist side during the war. We Japanese military personnel were dispatched presence of Soviet pilots in Korea by order- see that in November and December 1950 to the eastern coast of North Korea between ing the Soviet Air Force to train Chinese the Soviet Foreign Ministry advised Zhou 2 October and 10 December 1950, to clear pilots as quickly as possible so that they Enlai regarding the best approach to take to the way for an amphibious assault by UN could be sent to the front to replace Soviet air the question of Chinese participation in the forces.8 Japanese participation never be- crews (documents #68, 74, 76).
UN Security Council (document #37) and to came a major issue during the Korean War, In addition to providing air cover against a response to American proposals declaring either militarily or diplomatically, but it American planes along the Korean-Manchu- China an aggressor in Korea (document #46). does appear that one of Stalin's reasons for rian border, the Soviet Union also played the When UN representatives asked Chinese taking the risks associated with a North critical role of providing military supplies representatives in New York in December Korean offensive against South Korea was and advisers for the Chinese and North Ko- 1950 to inform them under what conditions to eliminate the possibility that a resurgent rean war effort. In this selection of docu- China would accept a cease-fire in Korea, Japan would be able to use southern Korea ments I have included the requests for sup- Zhou Enlai reported to Stalin his proposed as a beachhead for an attack on the Soviet plies and advisers from November 1950 terms and asked for the opinion of the Soviet Union. (This argument also animates through February 1951 (documents #36, 39, government before responding (document Stalin's arguments to Mao in early October 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 53, 62, 64), and then have #48). 1950 in favor of Chinese entry into the war limited the selection to only a few such Stalin's reply to Zhou and the Politburo to save the North Korean regime; see docu- requests for the remainder of the war (docu- directive the same day to UN Ambassador ments accompanying Alexandre ments #72, 73, 91, 92, 106, 111). I should Vyshinsky suggest that the success of the Mansourov's article.)
emphasize, however, that Chinese and North Chinese People's Volunteers in turning back Despite Stalin's concern to avoid direct Korean requests for supplies and advisers the American advance in November 1950 military conflict with the United States, he constituted a large part of Stalin's correspon- sharply altered Stalin's approach to the war. finally agreed to provide air cover for Chi- dence with Mao Zedong and Kim Il Sung On December 7 the Politburo informed nese ground troops crossing into Korea. until his death in March 1953. It is interest- Vyshinsky (document #47) that his draft Given the intensity of American bombing, ing to note that Stalin himself negotiated proposal for a cease-fire in Korea was "inChinese troops could hardly have entered with Mao and Kim over the amounts of the correct in the present situation, when Amerithe war without such cover and they did not various supplies that would be delivered, the can troops are suffering defeat and when the have the means to provide it for themselves. schedule of delivery, and the terms of pay- Americans are more and more often advancOn 1 November 1950, Soviet air force units ment. Stalin's personal attention to the sup- ing a proposal about the cessation of military first engaged American planes in air battles ply issue probably reflects the severity of the activity in Korea in order to win time and over the Yalu River bridge that was the burden this role placed on Soviet production prevent the complete defeat of the American route for Chinese People's Volunteers (CPV) capacity, which was still rebuilding from the troops." With the unexpected and undoubtentering Korea. Stalin's military envoy to devastation of World War II.
edly welcome sight of the supposedly fear
Reprinted from Doris M.Condit, ed., The Test of War 1950-1953, Volume II (Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense: 1988). some American armed forces retreating be- ment wanted peace and wanted a peaceful greater need to conclude an armistice, the fore the troops of his junior ally, Stalin solution of the Korean question—at the ear- Chinese and North Koreans should “conordered Vyshinsky to propose instead terms liest possible moment" and advised the United tinue to pursue a hard line, not showing haste that the Americans would surely reject. In States “to get in touch with the North Kore- and not displaying interest in a rapid end to the same vein, Stalin replied to Zhou (docu- ans and the Chinese Communists in this the negotiations" (document #95). ment #49) that it was not yet time “for China matter."13 A few days later Kim Il Sung and The evidence presented below suggests to show all its cards, while Seoul is still not Gao Gang, a Chinese leader with close ties to that as the fighting dragged on through 1952, liberated,” and advised him to adopt the the Soviet Union, went to Moscow to discuss the North Koreans became increasingly demore cunning strategy of requesting US and the situation with Stalin (documents #67,69- sirous of ending the war (documents #102, UN opinions on conditions for an armistice. 72). Mao Zedong considered it advisable to 106). The Chinese approach to the war, When the UN group presented its proposal open negotiations with the UN command however, seems to have been contradictory. on 11 January 1951, Zhou again turned to because for the next two months the Chinese On the one hand, Mao Zedong was clearly Stalin for "advice and consultation" (docu- and North Koreans would have to occupy a
anxious to avoid undermining the prestige of ment #52), and in accordance with Stalin's defensive position (documents #73, 74, 76). the PRC by accepting unfavorable armistice recommendation the PRC rejected the UN If the Chinese and North Korean forces could terms (document #108). As Zhou Enlai proposal.
avoid facing an enemy offensive during this explained to Stalin in a conversation in Stalin's telegram to Mao Zedong on 5 period, by August they would be strong Moscow on 20 August 1952 (the transcript June 1951 (document #65) reveals the new enough to launch their own new offensive. of which is published elsewhere in this issue attitude toward the war that Stalin adopted Stalin agreed with Mao that armistice of the Bulletin), the Chinese leadership felt after Chinese successes on the battlefield negotiations were desirable at that time (see that as a matter of principle it could not yield removed the threat of an American advance document #69) and instructed Moscow's to the Americans on the issue of repatriation toward Chinese and Soviet borders. He ambassador to the United Nations to take the of POWs. Zhou also reported to Stalin that informed Mao that he agreed that “the war appropriate initiative. 14 This evidence sug- Mao believed that the war in Korea was in Korea should not be speeded up, since a gests that the "hawks” within the Truman advantageous to China because it kept the drawn out war, in the first place, gives the Administration who opposed opening nego- United States from preparing for a new world possibility to the Chinese troops to study tiations in Korea on the grounds that the war. Specifically, by fighting the Americontemporary warfare on the field of battle
enemy was only trying to buy time to build cans in Korea, China was helping to delay and in the second place shakes up the Truman up its forces were, in fact, correct. From the next world war by 15-20 years. On the regime in America and harms the military Mao's assessment of the condition of the other hand, however, Zhou stated toward the prestige of Anglo-American troops.” We Chinese and North Korean troops in the end of this conversation that if America have no record of Mao's reaction to Stalin's summer of 1951, it appears that if the UN makes some sort of compromise on the POW enthusiasm for this costly “learning experi- forces had pushed their advantage in June issue, the communist side should accept it. ence" for China and one may imagine that and July 1951, before the Chinese had time to We need additional records from China the Chinese leadership may have been less dig fortifications, they may well have ad- in order to determine more clearly the Chienthusiastic about the massive casualties vanced the line of the front, and hence the nese leadership's thinking regarding the war suffered in Korea, which ran to many hun- eventual border between the two Koreas. in Korea during the long months of armistice dreds of thousands by the end of the war. At After August 1951 the CPV and PLA were negotiations. However, from an internal the same time, however, Mao's correspon- sufficiently well dug in that the war remained report on the Korean War written by the dence with Stalin indicates that the Chinese a stalemate.
Soviet Foreign Ministry in 1966 (published leader was in fact willing to continue the An examination of Chinese and North in Issue 3 (Fall 1993] of the Bulletin), it war until he obtained from the United States Korean strategy during the armistice nego- appears that by the time of Stalin's death in terms he considered acceptable. Russian tiations, which lasted from July 1951 to July March 1953, Beijing was eager to bring the records of Mao's correspondence with Stalin 1953, is beyond the scope of this essay, war to an end. According to this report, thus lend support to Chen Jian's argument though the Presidential Archive documents during conversations held while Zhou Enlai that Mao Zedong intervened in Korea pri- provide extensive evidence on this subject. I was in Moscow for Stalin's funeral, the PRC marily in order to reassert China's place in will note only that it appears that while Mao foreign minister "urgently proposed that the the international order and to revive revolu- Zedong opened negotiations in 1951 prima- Soviet side assist the speeding up of an tionary momentum within China. 12 rily in order to buy time to reinforce his armistice." As the tortuously worded USSR
Despite Stalin's interest in continuing position on the battlefield, his communica- Council of Ministers resolution of 19 March the war in Korea, the serious losses suffered tions with Stalin in July and August 1951 1953 (document #112) reveals, ending the by Chinese and North Korean troops in their (documents #84-88) suggest that if he had war in Korea was also a high priority for the failed offensives of April and May 1951 been able to secure satisfactory terms in the post-Stalin leadership in Moscow; in the forced the communist allies to consider open- negotiations, he may have been willing to midst of the great anxiety and confusion ing negotiations with the UN command. On conclude an armistice. However, the docu- following Stalin's death, the new leadership June 5 Soviet Ambassador to the UN Jacob ments reveal that Stalin consistently took a drafted and approved this major foreign Malik informed the American diplomat “hard line” toward the negotiations, advising policy decision in only two weeks. The George F. Kennan that “the Soviet govern- Mao that since the Americans had an even evidence thus suggests that Stalin's desire to diplomacy.”16
continue the war in Korea was a major factor sented below and the others from this collec- timing of the attack. The North Korean leadership in the prolongation of the war; immediately tion published in this issue, the documents
informed Beijing about the military operation only on
June 27, after the KPA had already occupied Seoul. See after his death the three communist allies declassified by the Presidential Archive
Chen Jian, China's Road to the Korean War: The took decisive steps to reach an armistice greatly expand our knowledge of the Korean Making of the Sino-American Confrontation (New York: agreement.
War and of Soviet foreign policy in general Columbia University Press, 1994), 134. The timing of the Council of Ministers' in the late Stalin years, particularly Soviet
5. Members of the Russian declassification committee resolution also suggests that it was Stalin's relations with the new communist govern
for Korean War documents have reported that further
records regarding the preparations for the military ofdeath rather than U.S. threats to use nuclear ment in China. It will be some time before
fensive against South Korea in the spring of 1950 are weapons that finally brought a breakthrough these new sources can be adequately ana- not in the Presidential Archive and have not been in the armistice negotiations. The lyzed and integrated with documentary and
6. Khrushchev recorded that when he asked Stalin Eisenhower Administration later asserted memoir evidence from other countries. In
about this “incomprehensible" order, the Soviet leader that it finally broke the stalemate at the meantime, readers may wish to consult replied sharply: “It's too dangerous to keep our advisers Panmunjom by virtue of its "unmistakable the following recent publications using other there. They might be taken prisoner. We don't want warning" to Beijing that it would use nuclear new sources from China and Russia in order
there to be evidence for accusing us of taking part in this
business. It's Kim Il Sung's affair.” See Nikita weapons against China if an armistice were to place this new evidence in a broader
Khrushchev (Strobe Talbott, ed.), Khrushchev Rememnot reached—a claim that had great influ- context: Chen Jian, China's Road to the bers (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1970), 370. ence on American strategic thinking after Korean War: The Making of the Sino-Ameri- 7. Chen Jian, China's Road to the Korean War, 1351953.15 However, Eisenhower's threats to
141. can Confrontation (New York: Columbia
8. See Meirion and Susie Harries, Sheathing the Sword: use nuclear weapons were made in May University Press, 1994); Thomas
The Demilitarization of Japan (London: Hamish 1953, two months after the Soviet govern- Christensen, "Threats, Assurances, and the Hamilton; Heinemann, 1989), 228-42. ment resolved to bring the war to an end. Last Chance for Peace: The Lessons of Mao's 9. This contradicts the widespread conclusion that the The Russian documents thus provide impor- Korean War Telegrams," International Se
DPRK air force had been eliminated in the first weeks
of the war. DPRK air units ceased to operate over North tant new evidence for the debate over“nuclear curity 17:1 (Summer 1992), 122-54; Sergei
Korea after the first few weeks of the war, but it appears N. Goncharov, John W. Lewis and Xue from this report that at least a portion of the air force was The final two documents presented be- Litai, Uncertain Partners: Stalin, Mao and withdrawn to Manchuria. For a discussion of the role low provide intriguing information about the Korean War (Stanford: Stanford Univer
of the North Korean air force, see, e.g., Max Hastings,
The Korean War (New York: Simon and Schuster, Mao Zedong's attitude toward the Korean sity Press, 1993); Michael Hunt, “Beijing
1987), 255. War and the effect the war had on his rela- and the Korean Crisis, June 1950-June 1951," 10. I am grateful to Mark O'Neill, who is writing a tions with Moscow. In a discussion with Political Science Quarterly 107: 3 (Fall dissertation on the Soviet air force in the Korean War Soviet officials in Beijing on 28 July 1953 1992), 453-78; William Stueck, The Korean
based on records from the General Staff archive, for
assistance in interpreting the documents on military (document #114), Mao was remarkably bel- War, An International History (Princeton:
operations. licose, speaking of the war as though it had Princeton University Press, 1995); and Zhang 11. Gen. Georgii Lobov, who commanded the 64th been a great victory for China. He even Shu Guang, Mao's Military Romanticism: Fighter Aviation Corps in Korea, stated in an interview commented that “from a purely military China and the Korean War, 1950-1953
in 1991 that approximately 70,000 Soviet pilots, tech
nicians and gunners served in the corps over the course point of view it would not be bad to continue (Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press,
of the war. See “Blank Spots in History: In the Skies to strike the Americans for approximately 1995).
Over North Korea,"JPRS Report, JPRS-UAC-91-004, another year.” Mao may have been mainly
12. Chen Jian, China's Road to the Korean War, 211posturing before the Russians, part of a larger 1. Photocopies of these documents have been deposited
223. effort to redefine his relations with Moscow at the National Security Archive in Washington DC,
13. Kennan to Matthews, 5 June 1951, in U.S. Departfollowing the death of Stalin; the Soviet located in The Gelman Library (7th fl.), George Wash
ment of State, Foreign Relations of the United States ington University, 2130 H St. NW, Washington, DC documents need to be combined with the
(FRUS), 1951, vol. 7 (pt.1), pp. 507-511. 20037 (tel.: (202) 994-7000). The National Security new Chinese sources before one can draw
14. See Malik's address over the UN radio network on Archive, a non-governmental organization devoted to
23 June 1951, ibid., 546-547. firm conclusions about Mao's thinking. It is facilitating increased access to declassified records on
15. James Sheply, “How Dulles Averted War,” Life, 16 clear, however, as the excerpt from a conver
international relations, is open to all researchers. Cop-
January 1956, 70-72; and Dwight D. Eisenhower, The sation with the Soviet ambassador in Beijing
White House Years: Mandate for Change, 1953-1956 University. in April 1956 (document #115) suggests, 2. “New Findings on the Korean War," CWIHP Bulle
(Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., 1963), 179
180. that the Korean War profoundly affected tin 3 (Fall 1993), 1, 14-18; and “To Attack or Not to
16. For discussion of the debate over the utility of relations between the PRC and the USSR. Attack? Stalin, Kim Il Sung and the Prelude to War,"
nuclear threats in the Korean War see Roger Dingman, CWIHP Bulletin 5 (Spring 1995), 1,2-9; and “The Stalin desperately wanted Mao Zedong to
“Atomic Diplomacy During the Korean War," InternaSoviet Role in the Early Phase of the Korean War: New pull his chestnuts out of the fire in Korea, but
tional Security 13:3 (Winter 1988/89),50-91; and RoseDocumentary Evidence,” The Journal of American
mary Foot, “Nuclear Coercion and the Ending of the the PRC's stunning success against the for- East Asian Relations 2:4 (Winter 1993), 425-458.
Korean Conflict,” International Security 13:3 (Winter midable American foe, combined with 3. See Sergei N. Goncharov, John W. Lewis, and Xue
1988/89), 92-112. Litai, Uncertain Partners: Stalin, Mao and the Korean Moscow's tightfistedness toward its ally,
War (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1993), made the communist government in Beijing 149. much less willing to tolerate subsequent 4. Although Kim Il Sung secured Mao's approval Soviet demands.
before launching the attack on South Korea, he did not
inform Mao of the specific plan for the invasion or the As is apparent from the documents pre