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NEW RUSSIAN DOCUMENTS ON THE KOREAN WAR
Introduction and Translations significant first months of the conflict. (Un- Vasilevsky on February 23 (document #4)
fortunately, some key materials from this supports accounts given by former DPRK by Kathryn Weathersby period, particularly the months immediately military officers that Stalin began taking
preceding the war, have not yet become steps to strengthen the North Korean miliIn the previous issue of the Cold War available; for key documents from mid-Sep- tary forces even before Kim Il Sung's secret International History Project Bulletin (Issue tember to mid-October 1950, covering events trip to Moscow in April, by appointing Ma5, Spring 1995 pp. 1, 2-9), I described the from the Inchon landing to China's decision jor-General Vasiliev, a Hero of the Soviet collection of high-level documents on the to intervene in the war, see the article by Union and section chief for War Experience Korean War that Russian President Boris Alexandre Y. Mansourov elsewhere in this Analysis in the Soviet General Staff, to reYeltsin presented to President Kim Young issue of the CWIHP Bulletin.) It then offers place Shtykov as principal military adviser Sam of South Korea in June 1994. I also a more selective sample of documents from to the Korean People's Army (KPA).3 presented translations of six key documents spring 1951 through the end of the war, From Shtykov's telegram to Foreign from that collection that illuminate the deci- focusing primarily on Stalin's approach to Minister Andrei Vyshinsky on February 7 sion-making behind the outbreak of full- the armistice negotiations. As the reader will (document #2), we see how closely Stalin scale war in Korea in June 1950. Since the quickly discover, these documents of high- supervised events in North Korea, deciding publication of the Spring 1995 Bulletin, the level decision-making within the Soviet gov- whether the DPRK could issue a bond, form base of documentary evidence on the Ko- ernment and within the Moscow-Beijing- an additional three infantry divisions, conrean War has been enriched even more by Pyongyang alliance shed light on many ques- vene the Supreme People's Assembly, or the release of virtually the entire collection tions about the Korean War, the Sino-Soviet send textile workers to the Soviet Union for of high-level documents on the war declas- alliance, Soviet relations with North Korea training. Documents #5-9 indicate the reasified by the Presidential Archive in Mos- (the Democratic People's Republic of Ko- son why the highly nationalistic Korean cow, which numbers approximately 1,200 rea, or DPRK), Soviet attitudes toward the communists allowed such interference in pages. Through a joint project of the Center United States, and the making of Soviet their country's affairs. As I discussed in the for Korean Research of Columbia Univer- foreign policy in general in the last years of previous Bulletin, prior to the Korean War, sity and the Cold War International History Stalin's life. In this brief commentary I will North Korea was dependent on the Soviet Project, these documents are now available therefore not attempt to provide a close ex- Union for the substantial quantities of goods to all interested researchers. 1
amination of these documents, as I have in and the broad range of expertise needed to The Presidential Archive (known offi- two previous Bulletin articles (and a related construct a new socialist state out of an cially as the Archive of the President, Rus- article in The Journal of American-East Asian abruptly truncated portion of the former sian Federation, or APRF) is the repository Relations).2 Instead, I will point out some of Japanese empire. From 1945-1950, the only to which, during the Soviet era, the Kremlin the most important questions these new place to which the DPRK could turn for this leadership sent its most sensitive records for sources address, provide additional back- support was the Soviet Union. Though many safekeeping and ready access. Its holdings ground information drawn from my research North Korean communists had close ties to are therefore more selective than those of in other Soviet archives, and offer some the Chinese communist party, the latter was the archives of the Soviet Foreign Ministry, preliminary conclusions.
not in a position to aid its Korean comrades. the Central Committee of the Communist The documents presented below begin In early 1950, the new People's Republic of Party (CC CPSU), and the General Staff of where the records published in the previous China (PRC) government in Beijing led by the Soviet Armed Forces, the other major Bulletin left off, with Stalin's telegram to the Mao Zedong was itself forced to turn to repositories used by historians of the Cold Soviet ambassador in Pyongyang on 30 Janu- Moscow for economic and military aid. As War. The release of a large portion of the ary 1950 informing Kim Il Sung that he documents #11 and#13 indicate, in the spring APRF's documents on the Korean War con- would “assist” him in the matter of reunify- of 1950 Mao Zedong and Kim Il Sung were sequently provides a critical addition to ing Korea by military means. Document #1 both interested in the possibility of developavailable evidence on the high-level deci- reveals that Kim Il Sung and Soviet Ambas- ing wider trade and closer communications sions and deliberations of the communist sador T.F. Shtykov interpreted Stalin's mes- between the PRC and the DPRK. Close side during this pivotal conflict.
sage as approval to plan an offensive cam- economic and military ties between This article presents translations of and paign against South Korea. The North Ko- Pyongyang and Beijing developed after the commentary on a sizable portion of this rean leader received Stalin's telegram with Chinese entered the Korean War; they were recently-released APRF collection on the “great satisfaction” and informed Shtykov not in place prior to October 1950.4 Korean War. It begins with most of the that he would begin preparations for a meet- At Stalin's insistence, after secretly rereleased documents covering February 1950 ing with Stalin at which the details of the ceiving the Soviet leader's conditional green through January 1951, providing a close campaign would be worked out. Shtykov’s light for an attack against South Korea durlook at the Soviet role in Korea during the telegram to Soviet Defense Minister A.M. ing a secret summit in Moscow in April (for 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 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- the 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
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 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 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 offensivevigorously 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
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