740.00119 Control (Korea)/1–2546: Telegram

The Chargé in the Soviet Union (Kennan) to the Secretary of State


237. ReEmbtel 227, Jan 25. With respect to Tass statement on Korean question which appeared in today’s Soviet press, I wish to invite Depths attention once more to Izvesthiya’s editorial reported in Embassy’s 124 Jan 12.29 At time that editorial appeared Embassy drafted telegram of comment transmission of which was withheld in view of Ambassador Harriman’s early arrival.30 Although I did not have opportunity to bring this draft to Ambassadors attention during his recent brief stay in Moscow I consider comment drafted at that time, i.e. Jan 14, worth submission now as background for issuance of this Tass communiqué. Intended message was as follows:

“USSR has since San Francisco made it plain that in general it did not go along with either American or British conception of trusteeship. With regard to Korea in particular USSR has indicated that it favored prompt independence for that former Jap colony (Embassy’s 3827, Nov 1231). Dispensation for Korea handed down at Moscow FonMins’ Conference therefore provided compromise formula: Acceptance of principle of trusteeship to which Anglo-Americans had become committed but emphasis on Korean ‘democratic’ parties, social organizations and provisional govt.

“If there has been any doubt as to the interpretation of word ‘democratic’ as applied to Korea it should now be dispelled by Izvestiya attack on Syngman Rhee,32 Kim Koo and followers. These men—impractical [Page 620] and poorly organized though they may be—nevertheless represent a pro-American opposition to existing Soviet sponsored ‘democratic’ parties and social organizations and to concept of Soviet domination of future provisional govt. That Izvestiya should go to the lengths it did in condemning this opposition as reactionaries and collaborators with Japs is indicative of attitude which USSR will probably adopt in Korea under joint commission and trusteeship. Lacking solid popular support and long experience of opposition in Balkans, opposition in Korea can hardly be expected to stand up under highly organized attack of Soviet political steam roller.

“As perhaps further indication of attitude USSR may adopt in Korea under trusteeship, Soviet press reprinted NY Times’ article from Seoul reporting five major Korean political parties demanded that Korean Govt, when formed, should solve trusteeship question according to spirit of sovereignty and independence. (Emb’s 146, Jan 1633) This suggests that after seeking to discredit opposition and pack provisional govt with its protégés USSR will wish to operate through provisional govt to oust other foreign influence. If this scheme works out we may expect an obstreperous provisional govt which will loudly protest its democratic qualities and its competence to manage its own affairs. Any attempt from non-Soviet sources to guide or check its activities will in such circumstances elicit charges of reactionary interference and collusion with Jap collaborators.”

Today’s Tass statement seems to us to be directed primarily to Korean people. If so it is not without certain ironic connotations. By attributing to USSR responsibility for trusteeship, Korean “reactionaries” have induced USSR to reveal fully its true attitude toward Korean problem.

There can now be little doubt that USSR wishes to assure earliest and most complete exclusion of other great powers from all connection with Korean affairs. Document which it submitted at Moscow Conference was designed to achieve this aim. USSR does not hesitate to advocate arrangements which formally call for early complete exclusion of all outside powers because Soviet regime in contrast to govts of other great powers has elaborate existing techniques and machinery for penetration and puppet domination of neighboring countries which it is sure it can apply successfully to Korea if other foreign influences are removed. It is reasonable to assume in fact that USSR has in reserve at least strong nucleus of ready made native governmental apparatus including bureaucrats, militia and Korean units from Red Army which can be depended upon to follow obediently Moscow direction.

This mission would be glad to be informed of exact nature and source of Korean press comments of which Tass communiqué complains. In general we are hampered in our efforts to interpret Russian [Page 621] reactions on Korean matters by our complete lack of information from Govt sources on course of events there.

Sent Dept 237, repeated Chungking 17 Frankfurt. Dept please repeat to Seoul and Tokyo.34

  1. Telegram 124 not printed.
  2. The Ambassador to the Soviet Union had been absent on a visit to Bucharest, Rumania.
  3. Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. vi, p. 1121.
  4. Syngman Rhee, associated with independence movement since 1919, was formerly “President of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea” in exile and Chairman of the Korean Commission to the United States.
  5. Not printed.
  6. Repeated January 27, 6 p.m., as No. 14 to Seoul and No. 90 to Tokyo.