North Korea wanted to start a second Korean war in 1965 and asked Beijing to send troops for the war, a Chinese scholar said on Thursday, citing China’s declassified diplomatic documents.
In 1965, North Korea’s founding leader Kim Il-sung met China’s envoy to Pyongyang and explained the inevitability of a second Korean war and requested Chinese soldiers, said Renmin University professor Cheng Xiaohe ahead of a peace forum in Seoul, reported South Korean media.
Kim told Chinese diplomat Hao Deqing that North Korea would soon wage war because there was no way to unify the Koreas without a conflict, wrote Hao in a note he sent to Beijing after his meeting with the founder of North Korea.
The Great Leader also told China that South Korean people were struggling from intensified class warfare and Pyongyang had already prepared for war.
“North Korea’s post-war recovery and economy made considerable progress until the mid-1960s, so there was plenty of room for Kim Il-sung to consider war,” Cho Han-bum, a senior researcher at the Seoul-based Korea Institute for National Unification, told the South China Morning Post.
South Korea was not making as much progress as its neighbour during that same period. A military coup in 1961 by a general who would become President Park Chung-hee destabilised the country. In 1965, South Koreans were protesting the normalisation of diplomatic ties with its former coloniser Japan and they deployed troops to fight in the Vietnam war to support the United States and earn some much-needed cash. Pyongyang thought it would be a good time to strike, given South Korea’s instability and divided attention. North Korea eventually did not act on its war plans.
“Even if Kim Il-sung had thought of launching a second Korean war, he would not have been able to carry it out,” added Cho. “China was suffering from the aftereffects of the failure of the Great Leap Forward and on the eve of the Cultural Revolution, so it probably had no intention nor ability to support North Korea.”
When Kim Il-sung visited Beijing in April 1975 he asked China again to help him unify the Koreas through war but was rejected.
“The 1960s were actually the best time for North Korea to unify the Koreas with physical force, but today, even if North Korea were to start a war, it would receive no external support and because of great pressure [from the international community] it would not be an option for North Korea,” said Cheng.