Frank Views from China About Korean War

The Korean War was started by Stalin, who wished to establish pro-Soviet government in the Korean Peninsula, and Kim Il-sung, who wanted unified Korea, a leading Chinese academic told the state-run media Thursday.

The Global Times quoted Shen Zhihua, the director of the Shanghai-based Center for Cold War International History Studies and professor of history at East China Normal University as making the remarks based on confidential documents released after the demise of the Soviet Union.

"Kim Il-sung kept asking for Stalin and Mao Zedong's approval to use force to take South Korea. But at first both demurred as the Soviet Union didn't want to aggravate tensions with the U.S., and China was concentrating on its own reunification," Shen said. "But in late January 1950, Stalin suddenly changed his mind and agreed to Kim's plan to undertake military operations against South Korea. He also called Kim to Moscow for secret talks. In the April talks, Stalin gave final approval to Kim's plan to start the war."

"Stalin agreed to Kim's estimate that the U.S. would decline to or not have enough time to intervene in the war," Shen said. However, Stalin repeatedly emphasized that the Soviet Union will not help out in case of the U.S. intervention and "managed to foist the responsibility on Mao."

Shen said on May 13, 1950, Kim went to Beijing to solicit Mao's opinion. Mao "was suspicious of the claim that Moscow had already approved North Korea's plan" and asked the Soviet ambassador Nikolai Roshchin to confirm it with Stalin. "Stalin answered that he had approved Kim's plan, but if China did not agree, they should discuss the issue again and the final decision should be made by the Chinese and North Koreans themselves." Mao therefore had no choice but to agree to Moscow and Pyongyang's shared position, and said that "if the U.S. entered the war China would send its own armies to assist North Korea, and troops could be transferred to the China-Korea border right away."

Why did Stalin change his mind? Shen said it was because the dictator had to give up ownership of the Changchun railway and 30-year lease of the Dalian harbor after the establishment of People's Republic of China in 1949 and wanted to secure its stronghold in the Far East by establishing pro-Soviet government in Korea, where there are at least three ice-free ports to the Pacific Ocean.

It is rare for China's state-run media to be so frank about such delicate historical matters. In China, the prevalent view is that the Korean War was started by South Korea in reliance on the U.S.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jun. 18, 2010 12:40 KST