Heo Dam reports on the DPRK's recent shootdown of an American plane which violated North Korean air space.
April 16, 1969
From the Journal of N.G. Sudarikov, 'Record of a Conversation with Pak Seong-cheol, Member of the KWP CC Politburo, Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers, and DPRK Minister of Foreign Affairs'
This document was made possible with support from Kyungnam University
[CSPU CC stamp:
12 JUNE 1969
Copy Nº 2
SOVIET EMBASSY IN THE DPRK
6 June 1969
from the journal of
N. G. Sudarikov
RECORD OF A CONVERSATION
with PAK SEONG-CHEOL, member of the KWP CC Politburo, Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers, and DPRK Minister of Foreign Affairs
16 April 1969
The meeting was held late in the evening at our request. Pak Seong-cheol said that Kim Il Sung is outside Pyongyang at the present time and had therefore charged him with receiving the Soviet Ambassador.
Referring to instructions received from Moscow I informed Pak Seong-cheol that the appropriate Soviet organizations have information that the troops of South Korea, American troops deployed in Japan, the US 7th Fleet, the Air Forces on Okinawa, and American troops in South Korea have been brought into full combat readiness that in connection with the incident with the American reconnaissance aircraft.
I noted that what was said above is also confirmed by information which the General Staff of the Soviet Army has.
Pak Seong-cheol expressed gratitude for the important and time-sensitive information, and promised to report its substance to Kim Il Sung.
I told Pak Seong-cheol that we hope that the Korean comrades will also inform us of all aspects which concern the incident and the further course of events.
[There is a stamp at the bottom of the first page stating that “the material is informative and the CPSU CC Department has been familiarized with [it]. 3 July 1969. To the archives [[illegible signature]]. 3 July 1969”, some illegible handwritten signatures, and “Pozdnyak”].
Pak Seong-cheol stated that for the time being everything that could be reported had already been reported by Cde. Heo Dam [Ho Dam] in the conversation with the Soviet Ambassador held in the afternoon.
Pak Seong-cheol said, American reconnaissance aircraft also made flights previously, but they did not intrude into our airspace. This time the aircraft violated DPRK airspace, and therefore it was shot down by DPRK aircraft. Our forces are in constant readiness to rebuff any aggressor who intrudes across the boundaries of our territory on land, sea, or air. We have incidents occur in the region of the demilitarized zone. If the enemy fires on us in this region with machine guns we respond with machine guns; when he uses artillery, we also use artillery.
We do not ascribe especial importance to the last incident – it is absolutely clear – the enemy aircraft intruded into our airspace and we shot it down.
Various reports are circulating right now in which it is asserted the US aircraft was allegedly outside the airspace of the DPRK, etc. It simply is not understandable why the Americans stick their noses into other countries. They have intruded into our airspace, we shot down their aircraft, and now they raise accusations against us and have raised a fuss.
I noted that the fuss is not the main thing; the main thing is in the possibility of an outbreak of a serious aggravation and even a military conflict. I asked how Cde. Pak Seong-cheol assesses the possible course of further events.
Pak Seong-cheol again repeated that everything is clear in this question. He noted, if the Americans behave calmly we will also behave calmly. If they try something, then we will also act. We have nowhere to go from our country. This incident is somewhat reminiscent of the Pueblo. If the Americans had decided to fight then, we would have fought.
I noted, that in our opinion it is better not to fight than to fight.
This does not depend on us, the interlocutor objected. Do you think that we want to fight? It would be good if the Americans had not violated our borders. But the Americans have intruded across the boundaries of our territory on land, sea, and air.
I asked Pak Seong-cheol, in an analysis of the situation do the Korean comrades admit the possibility of a retaliatory strike from the US [?]
Pak Seong-cheol replied evasively that there might be a strike but there also might not be one. When our pilots shot down the aggressor’s aircraft which intruded into DPRK airspace they were not thinking of the further course of events. We also have not been thinking about it. [Translator’s note: “?!” was written in the left margin next to the underlined portion]. If we had started to think then we would have to ask, the aircraft would have flown away further. It was agreeably this way to us – if an aggressor had intruded into territorial waters, airspace, or the land boundaries of our country, it should receive a proper rebuff.
Again I asked, whether the Korean comrades think a complication of the situation possible.
Pak Seong-cheol replied that everything depends on the Americans. Expressing a personal opinion, he noted that if the US had sent the aircraft into DPRK airspace intentionally, and had planned in advance to use the incident for its own purposes, then complications might arise. If the aircraft intruded accidentally, then there might not be complications. Pak Seong-cheol stressed, we wage firefights with the Americans in the area of the 38th Parallel almost every day. When they shoot, we also shoot, When they are silent, we are also silent. But no special aggravation arises from this.
I pointed to a number of characteristics of the situation in which the latest incident occurred compared to the situation when the Pueblo was detained. I noted that this is the second big slap in the face to American imperialism and that there is a new President in power in the US. In addition, according to reports on board the aircraft were 31 people and all of them evidently died; then, during the seizure of the Pueblo, there were no casualties.
I said that in an analysis of the situation and possible consequences it could obviously be taken into consideration that not only military complications will not occur and only political problems will arise, but also the possibility of a launch of a retaliatory strike. Are the Korean comrades considering both these possibilities? The Americans have brought their troops into combat readiness, and a direct military strike can also be expected from them.
Pak Seong-cheol declared that he did not understand the formulation of the question about a political or military resolution of the conflict. Everything is clear in this case: an American aircraft violator was shot down. When the Americans violate the armistice agreement we convene the Military Commission and raise questions about their actions. If the Americans have decided to fight, then no matter how much we ask them, they will not change their plans. If they have firmly decided to do this then we will be left nothing else than to also fight, inasmuch as there is nowhere to go from Korea.
Pak Seong-cheol said, I don’t know at all what question you have. It’s been reported to me that the Soviet Ambassador would meet with Cde. Kim Il Sung. I received a report through his personal secretary that Cde. Kim Il Sung was far from Pyongyang and was charging me with meeting you. But I didn’t suppose that you’d raise such complex questions. We have this ordinary matter. We’ve also shot down American planes before, and similar incidents are also possible in the future. If the US imperialists continue to violate our border this means that they want to find some pretext to attack us. It’s good for them to know that we won’t sit with folded arms.
You’ve informed us about the enemy bringing troops into combat readiness, and we express gratitude for the information.
I stressed that in the current complex international situation (the Near East crisis, the long war in Vietnam, the stirring up of revanchist forces in West Germany, etc.) the appearance of a new aggravation in the Orient is a very serious matter, which needs to be approached with all seriousness.
Pak Seong-cheol agreed, that everything happening in the world needed to be regarded with complete attention. As you have said, noted the interlocutor, everything is unsettled in the world right now. But all this happens for one reason, the Americans. Accordingly, no concessions can be made to them. If one gives in to the US imperialists they will be even more insolent. We need to increase vigilance in such a situation. If we sit with folded arms when a violator intrudes into our spaces, two planes will appear tomorrow, then four, five, etc. This would lead to an increase of the danger of war. But if a firm rebuff is given, then this will diminish the danger of an outbreak of war. When the Americans understand that there is a weak enemy before them they will start a war right away. If, however, they see that there is a strong partner before them, this delays the beginning of a war.
I said that in questions of high [bol’shaya] politics the Soviet Union has never given in and does not give in to the US. I cited examples: the introduction of the Soviet Navy into the Mediterranean Sea, the rearmament of the Arab countries, the introduction of Soviet troops into Czechoslovakia; and the great and comprehensive aid to Vietnam. I stressed that this is being done in terms to countering the aggressive policy of the US. At the same time, we have done and are doing everything to avoid the outbreak of a big war, for a war might throw the development of the socialist countries back by decades.
Pak Seong-cheol noted that no one loves war except aggressors. He said further that they understand that war will have an effect not only on the socialist countries, but also on the capitalist system. Why do we, said Pak Seong-cheol, speak only of the fact that socialism will be damaged, that socialism might perish, and we are not considering the consequences of war for capitalism; it, too, is experiencing great convulsions first-hand.
I explained that this is about the fact that the development of the socialist countries will be thrown back decades as a result of a destructive war.
This is clear, said the interlocutor. But when the Soviet people fought, did it want this? No, it did not. You were forced to fight. So it was in the Civil War, so it was in the years of the Second World War, so do things stand right now, everything depends on the enemy.
I noted that by 1980 the Soviet Union should complete the construction of the foundations of a Communist society, and the DPRK is faced with the task of finishing the construction of socialism. War could disrupt our plans.
Pak Seong-cheol repeated the idea that everything depends on our enemies, the American imperialists. If the US imperialisms were not nourishing aggressive designs, everything would be calm.
Right now we maintain an army of half a million men. For the money that goes to military needs we could build many new factories, improve the living conditions of the people, and more than double the workers’ wages. But the American imperialists don’t let us do this. [Translator’s note: This paragraph is highlighted in the left margin]
If one pays attention only to one aspect, to the destructive consequences of war, then we wouldn’t build anything right now. I want to repeat again that if the Americans had not sent their aircraft into DPRK airspace we wouldn’t have shot it down.
I expressed the opinion that we should be smarter than our enemies.
Pak Seong-cheol said, if we sit with arms folded, even when an aircraft intrudes into our airspace, in such a situation how can one outwit the enemy? But what do you mean, generally speaking?
I said that to beat the enemy strategically, this means to preserve and consolidate the gains of socialism and at the same time lead to the death of imperialism.
Pak Seong-cheol declared this is an illusion – don’t touch imperialism, wait until it perishes by itself.
I noted that we ought to demonstrate the advantages of socialism over capitalism, primarily through our economic successes, and also fight by political and diplomatic means.
We are also doing this, said [my] interlocutor. But how are we to act if the Americans come to us with weapons in hand, threatens us with atomic weapons, and the hydrogen bomb?
As a Marxist, I think [Translator’s note: the preceding words were bounded by a box] that we should act depending on the position of the enemies, on their actions.
If they resort to weapons, then we should take weapons in hand; [if] they resort to diplomacy, then we [should], too; [if] they develop the economy, then we should engage in economics. But when the enemy comes at us with weapons, then stressing only diplomatic and economic forms of fighting does not yield the proper effect.
I stressed that when the enemy commits direct aggression, we always repel it. But if there is a possibility of avoiding military action, if there are other means of solving problems, they need to be used. Only the current Chinese leaders think and act another way .
In my opinion, said Pak Seong-cheol, there are no such people who want to fight.
In this place of the conversation Pak Seong-cheol was unexpectedly animated. He said, you know when the war broke out in Vietnam the Chinese didn’t want to fight, and decided not to send troops beyond the borders of their country, and to engage in combat operations only in the event foreign troops appeared on Chinese territory.
The DPRK has sent its pilots to Vietnam, who fought there. The Chinese didn’t provide a single pilot, and now even their construction battalions have been withdrawn from Vietnam. The Chinese only fight in words. If we talk with you about the Chinese policy, a night isn’t enough.
I told Cde. Pak Seong-cheol that we will soon see him off for Moscow and hope that a war will not break out in Korea during his absence.
Anything might happen, said Pak Seong-cheol. The American imperialists want to swallow all of Korea.
At the end of the conversation Pak Seong-cheol again expressed gratitude for the information.
I noted that we are also counting on information from the Korean comrades.
Pak Seong-cheol promised to provide information if there is anything new.
Let the Americans now rack their brains over what they are to do.
I noted that we also ought to think and consider the military preparations of the enemy.
The actions of the American imperialists, noted Pak Seong-cheol, demonstrate only that they committed the provocation deliberately and intentionally. What do you think, asked the interlocutor, will they go to war in this case or not?
I replied that, in my opinion, the Americans might launch a strike on the DPRK.
Pak Seong-cheol said that such a strike would mean the start of a war, inasmuch as the DPRK would launch a retaliatory strike. An exchange of reciprocal strikes, that is war, he added in Russian.
I said that that is why we have also decided to inform the KWP CC and DPRK government about the enemy bringing his troops into combat readiness so that the Korean comrades draw the correct conclusions from this and not make any rash steps.
Pak Seong-cheol expressed gratitude.
In the course of the conversation Pak Seong-cheol noted that the goal of his trip to Moscow is an exchange of opinions in connection with the situation which has been created and about other questions.
Ri In-gyu, Chief of the First Department of the DPRK MFA, Senior Assistant Military Attaché I. F. Latyshev, and Second Secretary of the Soviet Embassy in the DPRK A. D. Putivets were present at the conversation.
SOVIET AMBASSADOR IN THE DPRK [signature]
1 – to Cde. V. V. Kuznetsov
2 – to Cde. K. V. Rusakov
3 – to Cde. V. I. Likhachev
4 – to file
6 June 1969 Nº 325
Sudarikov updates Pak Seong-cheol on the US and South Korean reactions following the shootdown of the American airplane. Pak Seong-cheol says that the DPRK should not forgive this imperialistic enemy.
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