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Digital Archive International History Declassified

August 04, 1969

MINISTER-COUNSELLOR OF THE SOVIET EMBASSY IN NORTH KOREA, 'INFORMATION ABOUT A TRIP TO PANMUNJOM'

This document was made possible with support from the Kyungnam University, Institute for Korean Studies, Ohio State University

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    Shubnikov discusses the situation in Panmunjom, stating that troop movements are calmer than during the previous year. He assumes that both Koreas do not want to be accused of aggressive behavior prior to the UN discussion of the Korean issue.
    "Minister-Counsellor of the Soviet Embassy in North Korea, 'Information About a Trip to Panmunjom'," August 04, 1969, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, RGANI, fond 5, opis 61. delo 466, listy 142-146. Obtained by Sergey Radchenko and translated by Gary Goldberg. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/134249
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SOVIET EMBASSY IN THE DPRK       SECRET

11 August 1969   Copy Nº 1

247 [CPSU CC stamp: 27147

14 August 1969

Korea]

from the journal

of N. M. SHUBNIKOV

INFORMATION

about a trip to Panmunjom

I went to Panmunjom from 25 to 27 June together with J. Gorzhenevsky [Translator’s note: probably spelled Gořenevsky in Czech], Chargé of the CSSR in the DPRK, at his invitation.

At Panmunjom I saw the place where the meetings of the Military Armistice Commission of the Neutral Countries are held, and also had conversation with the representatives of the CSSR and PNR in the Neutral Countries Commission.

Personal observations and the information of the Czechoslovak and Polish comrades confirm our conclusions that the situation in Korea has recently become calmer. This was already noticeable along the road to Panmunjom: there were no troop movements, and our vehicle was not stopped once by military outposts during the entire 200-kilometer route. Unlike last year here we did not hear one artillery round or small arms fire here. Neither side is exhibiting any activity in the area of the demilitarized zone. Meetings of the Military Armistice Commission of neutral countries, held once a week, discuss only the complaints of the sides about small clashes in individual sectors of the demilitarized zone which are associated with mutual infiltrations into enemy territory by small armed groups and scouts. The quiet situation in this region is also confirmed by the fact that a meeting of the Military Armistice Commission has not been convened in three months.

[stamp at the bottom of the first page: “The material is informative,  the CPSU CC Department has been familiarized [with it]/Katerinich/Chief of a sector. 15D/6 29 August 1969”.

There is also an illegible surname in the left margin with the date 8 August 1969 and a couple of surnames to the left of the stamp]

In the opinion of the head of the Czechoslovak mission, General V. Toman, and the head of the Polish mission, General M. Ryba, right now the North Koreans and the Southerners are more occupied with diplomacy in the international arena, winning as many countries to their side as possible in connection with the upcoming UN General Assembly session, where the “Korean question” will be discussed again. Neither side wants to give a reason for being accused of aggressive intentions. The Polish and Czechoslovak generals think that, after a series of big failures of their agent network in South Korea, the Korean comrades are possibly convinced that right now the situation does not allow them to conduct further infiltration of their people to the South on a large scale. The deployment of a North Korean agent network to the South has been somewhat complicated as a result of the measures conducted in the past year by the South Korean authorities and American militarists. Great attention has been paid in South Korea to protecting the coast, and the defense along the demarcation line has been strengthened and the contingent of the gendarmerie has been increased. The population of South Korea has come to regard the North Korean infiltrators with greater vigilance as a consequence of increased propaganda by the Americans and the South Korean authorities. Moreover, the authorities regularly conduct exercises for catching “parachutists” which involve in this regular troops, the gendarmerie, and self-defense detachments created in all population centers. As a bonus, two hundred thousand won are paid to whomever manages to capture the “parachutists” and deliver them as designated.

The American side in Panmunjom is worried about the situation that the Military Armistice Commission has not been convened for more than three months. It is the DPRK delegation’s turn to convene. The Americans understand that the North Korean side is doing this intentionally in order to accuse them of disrupting the work of the Commission. As is well known, since the last meeting of the Commission the Americans left without agreement, not tolerating, as they say, the rudeness from the North Korean representative. The Americans intend to also display initiative to convene a meeting of the Military Commission at the end of August or the beginning of September in order to deprive the DPRK of these propaganda trump cards on the eve of the 24th UNGA session.

The Americans and South Koreans nevertheless regard the fact that it has become too quiet in the region of the 38th Parallel right now with some caution. In conversations with the Poles and Czechoslovaks they stress that this calm situation might mean a “calm before the storm”, for the North Koreans are all the same not settling down and after some time (evidently, after the UNGA session) they will attempt “something new”. They are also carrying out corresponding propaganda in this connection, constantly mentioning the words of Kim Il Sung that Korea “should be reunited during the life of the current generation”. General Knapp, the head of the US delegation in the Military Armistice Commission, spoke about this in particular in his 26 July interview, which I was able to see on television in Panmunjom.

The representatives of Sweden and Switzerland in the neutral countries armistice observation commission told the Czechs and Poles that the American troops would not leave South Korea voluntarily, for the US views this regions as an important strategic military base in the Far East. In addition, they are afraid of possible large military actions from the North, and also have to constantly keep the South Korean military clique from retaliatory acts, especially the young officers who, having passed through an “internship” in Vietnam, dream of a war against the DPRK.

The Swedes and Swiss say that the Americans will not seek large military actions first, and will try not to bring discredit upon themselves even in the event of any acts from the North. Therefore the UN troop command in South Korea has supposedly developed a plan to use tactical nuclear missile weapons against the DPRK if an attack comes from its direction. In this event, the Americans are counting on letting the North Korean troops pass about 20-30 kilometers from the demarcation line and then destroy them in this zone with one powerful nuclear missile strike in order to show the entire world who is guilty in this incident.

According to the observations of Generals Toman and Ryba, the Chinese representatives in the Military Armistice Commission are behaving passively, although they attend every meeting and write down all the statements. Therefore the entire weight of the constant fight with the Americans rests on the DPRK representatives. The Chinese delegation does not live in Panmunjom, but in Kaesong, and even almost never deals with the Koreans at Commission meetings. According to some information a new chief of the Chinese mission, supposedly the former First Deputy Chairman of the CPC CC commission for intelligence work, should arrive in August. Possibly he will step up the Chinese delegation’s activity at the talks.

The Czechoslovak and Polish comrades think that their task at Panmunjom is to help our Korean friends in every possible way, informing them of all the possible hostile acts of the Americans and South Koreans. At the same time they also see their task as restraining both sides from any rash actions which might lead to undesirable consequences [or] to a violation of the armistice in Korea. We understand, Toman and Ryba told me, that we are defending the interests of all the socialist countries in Panmunjom, and most of all the interests of the USSR, and therefore we will always inform the Soviet Embassy in Pyongyang of changes which occur in the region of the demilitarized zone, the meetings of the Commission, and about all other question which might be of interest.

We exchanged opinions with the Czechoslovak and Polish comrades about the results of the International Conference of Communist and Worker’s Parties in Moscow, and I told them about the June CPSU CC Plenum and the latest session of the USSR Supreme Soviet.

Minister-Counsellor of the

Soviet Embassy in the DPRK

[signature] (N. Shubnikov)

3-at

1 – to Cde. O. B. Rakhmanin

2 – to Cde. V. I. Likhachev

3 – to file

Nº 482

4 August 1969

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