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Digital Archive International History Declassified

April, 1975

SOUTH KOREAN REPORT ON KIM IL SUNG’S ATTEMPT TO VISIT THE USSR IN 1975

This document was made possible with support from the Leon Levy Foundation

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    A South Korean document discusses and speculates the purpose of Kim Il Sung's possible visit to the USSR as well as expected Soviet responses to North Korean requests.
    "South Korean Report on Kim Il Sung’s Attempt to Visit the USSR in 1975," April, 1975, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs Archives. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/114588
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    https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/114588

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Purpose of and Outlook for Kim Il Sung’s Visit to the Soviet Union

  1. Kim Il Sung’s Visit to the Soviet Union

The possibility of Kim Il Sung visiting the Soviet Union is presently rising. If this is realized, his visit will be the eighth trip to the Soviet Union since March 1949 when he visited to discuss “June 25th Provocation [the Korean War]” with the Soviet leadership group. In terms of the timing, this plan requires attention [from us] as it is likely to take place immediately after his visit to Communist China and the collapse of Vietnam and the Khmer.

  1. Purpose of Visit

There are several theories regarding the purpose of Kim Il Sung’s visit to the Soviet Union. In summary, these theories are largely categorized as the following.

  1. To request support for North Korea’s revolution in the South

On the outside, Kim Il Sung is likely to argue to the Soviet leadership that there is potential for revolution in the South and if [the North] supports the revolution in the South, the situation will explode and will result in the liberation of the people and the reunification of the Korean Peninsula (in order to conceal the North’s potential plan to the Soviet leadership for its all-out-war against the South). Kim is likely to request support from the Soviet Union [in this endeavor].

  1. To request diplomatic support in reunification by communizing the South

[Kim] is likely to request diplomatic support from the Soviets to remove major barriers to the People’s Liberation Movement, that is, the withdrawal of the U.S. Army from the South and also the dissolution of the UN Armed Forces. At the same time, Kim will want to obtain assurance from the Soviets that North Korea is the only legitimate government in the Korean Peninsula and to request that the Soviet Union avoids contact with the South in the future in order to isolate the South.

  1. To request support for the military and economy

He [Kim] is likely to request military support and argue that new arms are needed and are an important element to the People’s Liberation Movement. Also, in order to tackle economic and financial difficulty due to the North’s focus on the People’s Liberation Movement, he is likely to request economic and financial support from the Soviet Union.

  1. To explain Kim Il Sung’s visit to Communist China

The visit is to resolve the Soviet leadership’s doubts about North Korea caused by Kim Il Sung’s visit to Communist China. In order to maintain a more powerful “equal distance” diplomacy with China and the Soviet Union, Kim is likely to make excuses to the Soviet Union and state that his visit to Communist China was merely for the “solidarity among international communist parties,” coming from the international socialist principles.

  1. To extend the mutual assistance treaty on alliance and cooperation between the Soviet Union and North Korea

It is mentioned that Kim will argue for the strengthening of mutual alliance and friendship, signifying the extension of the treaty on military alliance between the Soviet Union and North Korea, which was signed in July 1961.

  1. Outlook

A. The Soviet Union’s basic attitude towards the Korean Peninsula

If the Soviet Union actively supports North Korea’s forceful reunification by communizing the South, it will result in a worsened U.S.-Soviet relationship and fundamentally threaten the Soviet’s current East-West rapprochement policy. In terms of national welfare, [it is not beneficial because] it will result in Japan’s rearmament and a strengthened alliance between the U.S. and Japan. Also, the Asian empires are likely to oppose Soviet expansionism and promote pro-U.S. or pro-Sino policy and realizing Asian security as the Soviet [Union] plans is going to become more difficult. Therefore, the Soviet Union has no other choice than to maintain the status quo in the Korean Peninsula. However, it is dominantly argued among experts, including Donald S. Zagoria of Hunter College, that the Soviet Union is unable to officially promote such policy because it must avoid upsetting North Korea and prevent the North from leaning towards Communist China.

  1. Communist China strengthening its support for North Korea and the Soviet Union’s response

Recently, in the joint communique following Kim Il Sung’s visit to Communist China, Communist China designated North Korea as the “only legitimate country in Korea.” They also criticized our “Statement of June 23rd” and signaled their policy to change the status quo of the Korean Peninsula. To summarize, they actively supported the North’s so-called People’s Liberation Movement in the South. In [his upcoming] visit to the Soviet Union, Kim Il Sung is expected to make the same request to the Soviet leadership. We believe the following are possible responses from the Soviet Union.

If North Korea obtains assurance from the Soviet Union that it is the “only legitimate government” on the Korean Peninsula and requests the Soviet Union to “avoid contact with the South,” the Soviet Union might accept the request in order to restrain North Korea from leaning towards Communist China, incorrectly believing that the People’s Liberation Movement argued by the North is feasible and at the same time considering the fact that Communist China already agreed to the North’s request. On the other hand, if the Soviet leadership recognizes that the so-called People’s Liberation  Movement cannot be realized, and if they are convinced that the North will definitely attempt forceful reunification by communizing the South, we cannot rule out the possibility that the Soviet leadership will clarify its basic standpoint (status quo on the Korean Peninsula is ultimately the best measure for peaceful reunification) and reject North Korea’s requests.

  1. Support North Korea’s revolution in the South

While supporting North Korea’s effort in the liberation of the people, the Soviet Union is [illegible] in terms of supporting North Korea’s forceful revolution in the South. Considering the Soviets' basic standpoint for the Korean Peninsula, we observe that the North will attempt to persuade and induce the Soviets to their benefit.

  1. Support [the North] in dissolving the UN Military Command and withdrawing the U.S. Army from the South

The Soviet Union does not welcome the dissolution of the UN Military force and the withdrawal of the U.S. Army from the South in order to prevent North Korea’s provocation in the South. However, they will support the North as in the past (the Soviet Union has supported North Korea at the UN [General Assembly]) to prevent North Korea’s opposition and their leaning toward Communist China, hoping for the People’s Liberation Movement in the South to mature.

  1. Military assistance to North Korea

We expect that Soviet military assistance to North Korea will be influenced by the Soviet leadership’s decision on the feasibility of the North’s forceful reunification by communizing the South. We project that there can be some military assistance intended for defense which includes conventional weapons and military supplies, in order to prevent North Korea’s inclination to Communist China and to attract them to the Soviet Union. However, we believe that nuclear weapons and other massive-scale military support intended for offense is unlikely.

  1. Economic and financial assistance to North Korea

We expect that Soviet economic and financial assistance to North Korea will depend on the Soviet leadership’s decision on North Korea’s adherence to Communist China, observed in Kim Il Sung’s current visit to the Soviet Union and North Korea’s pro-Soviet attitude in the Sino-Soviet conflict. Unless North Korea abandons its Sino-Soviet equal distance policy, it is difficult to expect unprecedented, large-scale assistance from the Soviets (report from the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union).

  1. Kim Il Sung’s visit to the Soviet Union and the impact on our country :
  1. If the Soviet leadership restrains North Korea from leaning towards Communist China and attempts to attract North Korea, accepting North Korea’s argument (that the potential for people’s revolution in the South has ripened, and thus, communist revolution is currently possible):

We expect that the Soviet Union will perceive conflicts in the Korean Peninsula as a domestic issue for Korea, and to support North Korea’s so-called People’s Liberation Movement, the Soviet might adopt a policy that abandons the status quo in the Korean Peninsula as Communist China did. Therefore, as outlined above (refer to Outlooks), the Soviets will provide substantial diplomatic, military, economic, and financial assistance to North Korea. The Soviet Union is also likely to avoid “contact” with our country, and this will largely impact our policy to improve relationships with communist countries.

  1. If the Soviet Union attempts to prevent North Korea from leaning toward Communist China and to attract the North to the Soviet without adopting the view that South accumulated the potential for communist revolution:

We expect that the Soviet policy towards Korea will stay in a range where it will not upset North Korea. The Soviet Union is likely to continue its unclear status quo policy on the Korean Peninsula, depending on the circumstances in the Korean Peninsula and its relationship with the U.S. and Japan. At the same time, the Soviet Union’s assistance to North Korea will not radically change relative to previous levels.

  1. If the Soviet Union sees that preventing North Korea from leaning toward Communist China and attracting the North to the Soviet Union is difficult to achieve, and [if it] believes that there is no possibility for [South] Korea to accumulate communist revolution potential in the near future:

We expect that the Soviet Union will fully restrain North Korea’s all-out provocation in the South. At the same time, in order to promote definite peace on the Korean Peninsula, the Soviets will reject the North’s request to change the status quo in the Korean Peninsula and argue that the Soviets’ status quo policy on the Korean Peninsula is ultimately the best option for North Korea. As a result, the Soviets might promote the status quo policy on the Korean Peninsula more openly (in the long run, the Soviets can expect Sino-U.S. rapprochement policy to be ruined if the North eventually decides on the pro-Sino policy line and promotes all-out-provocation in the South). In this case, our attempt to improve relationships with East European countries can be highly successful.

We expect, North Korea’s Kim Il Sung [illegible] Communist China’s [illegible] on his visit to the Soviet Union, and to prevent our entry to East Europe, he is likely to make a tour to some East European countries, making use of the visit to the Soviet Union, such as Albania, Romania, East Germany, and so on.