December 21, 1968
From the Journal of N.G. Sudarikov, 'Record of a Conversation with KWP Politburo member, Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers, and DPRK Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pak Seong-cheol'
This document was made possible with support from Kyungnam University
[CPSU CC stamp: 03098
31 January 1969]
Copy Nº 2
SOVIET EMBASSY IN THE DPRK
27 January 1969
from the journal of
N. G. Sudarikov
RECORD OF A CONVERSATION
with KWP CC Politburo member, Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers, and DPRK Minister of Foreign Affairs PAK SEONG-CHEOL
21 December 1968
The meeting was held at our request.
1. In accordance with instructions of Moscow [tsentr] I informed Pak Seong-cheol of the talks which took place in Moscow between Soviet leaders and a government delegation headed by Cde. Pham Van Dong.
Pak Seong-cheol expressed gratitude for the information and said that he would report its substance to Cde. Kim Il Sung.
He asked whether he understood correctly that Cde. Pham Van Dong flew to Moscow via China and held talks there.
I said that the Vietnamese comrades informed the Soviet side about the substance of their talks with the Chinese, only that the Chinese had promised to help the DRV.
For my part I asked how Cde. Pak Seong-cheol regarded the three forms of struggle - political, diplomatic, and military - about which the Vietnamese comrades spoke in Moscow.
What opinion can I have?!, said Pak Seong-cheol. The Vietnamese comrades are the owners of the Vietnamese question. They themselves decide what forms of struggle to use, based on the specific situation. As regards us, we just give the aid which the Vietnamese comrades ask us. We think that they should decide themselves whether to hold negotiations or fight. We ought not determine what is good for them and what is bad.
[Handwritten at the bottom of the first page: “Archive. St-[[a few illegible letters]], 5 March 1969. Memo on page 5”]
I noted that the leaders of the Party and government of the Soviet Union have also declared to the Vietnamese comrades that they should make decisions themselves. At the same time, when they said that they should use the three forms of struggle, we supported them in this. Of course, there was no pressure from the Soviet side.
Pak Seong-cheol repeated that the DPRK government is acting only in accordance with the line and the requests of the Vietnamese comrades and supports them in what they are asking.
I touched on the question of the talks in Paris. I said that involving the representatives of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam in the talks is a step forward, a great achievement of the Vietnamese friends.
Pak Seong-cheol noted, we know only what the correspondents write about the Paris meetings. Whether there will be progress at the talks in Paris or not, everything depends on the American imperialists, on their intentions. If the Americans act like they say, that is, they will withdraw their troops from South Vietnam, they will provide an opportunity for the Vietnamese people to decide the Vietnamese question themselves, then that’s another matter. If they cling to the military way of solving the problem, then in this case no end is in sight.
I stressed that the Vietnamese comrades are exhibiting interest in holding talks and will do nothing which might lead to their breakdown. The Vietnamese comrades even speak of permissible compromises. I expressed the supposition that 1969 might lead to substantive changes in the situation in Vietnam. A withdrawal of the Americans from this country would be the best outcome.
Pak Seong-cheol agreed that this would be good. But, in my opinion, the Americans will not leave Vietnam, he added.
I said that successful combat operations of the South Vietnamese patriots and large American losses in manpower and military equipment, the large US expenses for waging the war in Vietnam, the discrediting of the aggressive US policy in the eyes of the peoples of the world, and the unpopularity of the Vietnamese War among part of the American population might influence the future decisions of the US government.
Pak Seong-cheol noted in this connection that the Americans are admitting losses in aircraft themselves, and say that the number of the American soldiers killed and wounded in Vietnam is 300,000 men.
Pak Seong-cheol continued, I know about Nixon’s intention to shift part of the burden for waging the war in Vietnam to US allies, including Japan.
I said that this shows that for the US, although a rich country, the burden of military expenditures has turned out to be too much, and the Americans are starting to feel that they are ensnared in Vietnam.
2. Referring to the placement in the bulletin of the DPRK Central Telegraph Agency of a report of foreign correspondents about 26 or 27 meetings between the DPRK and the US in Panmunjom which alleged took place in recent days I asked the Minister to say at what stage was the resolution of the question of the fate of the crew of the American reconnaissance ship Pueblo.
But what do you think, that there will be something new?, replied the Minister to my question with a question.
I expressed the supposition that in the end the Americans will sign a document the contents of which would satisfy the Korean comrades.
But can the Americans be believed? Pak Seong-cheol asked a new question.
I said that they evidently want to sign a draft document submitted by the DPRK, but they are thinking of how to do this. It is not excluded that Nixon does not want to accept the unresolved question of sailors detained in the DPRK as a legacy from the old administration.
If Johnson were to decide this question, Pak Seong-cheol said, thinking, how would he act? We have a simple demand: the Americans must admit that the ship Pueblo entered the territorial waters of the DPRK and carried out espionage activities, apologize, and give guarantees that such a thing will not be repeated in the future. They have not yet signed such a document.
I noted that there are reports about the arrival of buses in the region of Panmunjom for the Pueblo crew.
Judging from these signs, said Pak Seong-cheol, the Americans are planning to sign the document. The buses from the American side are actually parked but this was done for propaganda and to pressure us.
I expressed the wish that the Korean comrades inform us how the question of the Pueblo crew will be finally decided so that we don’t find out about this from the newspapers.
I have already told you, said Pak Seong-cheol, that the Americans have promised to sign the document. Possibly this afternoon the DPRK MFA will provide information to all the ambassadors about this question.
I let it be understood that considering the practice that has developed between us of exchanging confidential information the Korean comrades could find another occasion to inform the Soviet Embassy.
Pak Seong-cheol understood the hint and, correcting himself off the top of his head, said that the ambassadors will be informed separately – the Soviet Ambassador first, then the ambassadors of the socialist countries, and then the remaining ambassadors.
Touching on the position of the US representative at the negotiations in Panmunjom, Pak Seong-cheol noted that the Americans are forced to go follow such a way of resolving the question about the Pueblo crew since they have no other way out. If they don’t sign the document then they won’t get the Pueblo crew. If they go to war, then the crew members won’t survive [ne stanet]. They’ll get their bodies. We have been holding talks with the Americans in the military commission in Panmunjom for 15 years and have not made one concession, and there have been no compromises. They threaten us, and we threaten them, let’s fight.
I expressed the opinion that in specific individual cases there need to be compromises, even with bourgeois countries; V. I. Lenin did not completely reject compromises, for example, in the period of the conclusion of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.
Pak Seong-cheol said that this was necessary then. Any country wants to do what is to its advantage.
3. I informed the Minister that on 27 December I plan to go to the construction of the Bukchang [Pukchang] thermal power station together with [my] counselor for economic questions. I noted that I intended to familiar myself with the progress of the construction, talk with the Korean comrades and Soviet specialists, and determine which questions ought to be decided first in order to accelerate the commissioning of the first phase of the power station.
Pak Seong-cheol expressed gratitude for the attention to the questions of the construction of the thermal power station in Bukchang, and asked to provide assistance in the performance of the tasks assigned by Cde. Kim Il Sung regarding the acceleration of the construction of this station.
4. I invited Cde. Pak Seong-cheol to dinner at the Embassy on one of the last days of the outgoing year, 1968.
The Minister expressed gratitude for the invitation and said that he would visit the Embassy if there is time. We agreed to coordinate the date and time of the dinner later.
Senior desk officer Kim Ha [sic; proper Korean spelling unknown] of the DPRK MFA and Second Secretary of the Embassy A. D. Putivets were present at the conversation.
SOVIET AMBASSADOR IN THE DPRK [signature]
Four copies printed/lg
1 – to Cde. V. V. Kuznetsov
2 – to Cde. K. V. Rusakov
3 – to Cde. V. I. Likhachev
4 – to file
26 January 1969 Nº 89
[Translator’s note: there is a stamp at the end of the document stating that “the material is informative and the CPSU CC Department has been familiarized with [it]”; 15D/6 5 March 1969. Sector chief [[illegible name]]. Pozdnyak. [[two illegible names]]”].
Sudarikov informs Pak Seong-cheol that a delegation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, led by Pham Van Dong, visited China and the Soviet Union and asked for assistance in the Vietnam War.
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