The First Secretary of Embassy in China ( Turner ) to the Political Adviser at Seoul, Korea ( Langdon )40
Dear Bill: When Mr. Hendrick Van Oss41 passed through Seoul I understand that you expressed to him a desire to have from this Embassy whatever information was available with regard to the use of Korean units by Communist forces in Manchuria.
As you are aware, the Central Government in its propaganda efforts has constantly attempted to establish that Communist military successes in Manchuria were largely due to “outside interference”. Lately Government statements have been more outspoken with regard to open Soviet assistance to the Chinese Communists in Manchuria and most recently the Government has made broad claims that there are large Korean units trained by Soviet occupation forces in north Korea actively engaged with the Chinese Communists. Aside from the large quantities of Japanese military matériel which the Chinese Communist forces in Manchuria received at the time of the Soviet withdrawal from Manchuria, the Embassy has received no credible evidence of active Soviet intervention in the area. With regard to the question of Korean units, the military intelligence division of the Ministry of National Defense has likewise put forth no credible proof that Russian-trained Korean units are active in the northeast.[Page 246]
Naturally, this is a nebulous subject and information from our own sources does not prove that there has not been an ingress of Korean units from Soviet-occupied north Korea. However, such evidence as is available to the Embassy tends at this time to indicate that if such an ingress has occurred, it has been on a small scale and the weight of the evidence is to the effect that Koreans serving with the Communists are from among those Koreans who have been resident in Manchuria for many years.
In reply to a recent inquiry, the Consul General at Changchun noted that the Korean population of Manchuria in 1944 was reported as being about 1,450,000 and he pointed out that there existed the logical possibility that there is traffic across the north Korean border with the Chien Tao region where most of the Manchurian Koreans have traditionally resided, but the Consul General stated that concrete evidence that Koreans found with Communist troops in Manchuria had come recently from north Korea, as suggested in current Central Government publicity, would probably be very difficult to obtain.
The Consul General invited the Embassy’s attention to the possibility that Manchurian Koreans in the Chien Tao region may, like Manchurian Mongols, have been promised by the Communists that they would enjoy certain autonomous rights under a Communist regime. As an example of recent Central Government publicity with regard to the participation of Korean nationals in Chinese Communist activities in Manchuria, there is enclosed for your information a copy of Changchun’s despatch no. 61 of June 12, 1947 to the Department.42
It has been suggested by American military observers and Foreign Service officers in Manchuria that there are three possibilities—(1) that there are complete Korean units operating with the Chinese Communist forces; (2) that there are Korean nationals recruited in Manchuria who are members of the Chinese Communist forces; and (3) that Koreans are used as line of supply troops by the Communists, that is, they act as guards for supply convoys and as drivers of supply carts or as labor troops.
According to the evidence currently available to the Embassy it would appear that the latter two possibilities are more nearly in accord with the facts of the situation. In a recent conversation with Colonel David D. Barrett, Assistant Military Attaché, General Cheng Tung-kuo, Acting Commander of the Northeast China Command, stated categorically that there were no independent Korean units operating with the Communists, that there were considerable numbers of Koreans with Communist armies but that they were integrated into Communist [Page 247] units. There have been very few opportunities to talk with Korean captives in Manchuria, but it has been pointed out in various reports from Manchuria that when such occasions have arisen, it was found that the captives put forth as Korean all spoke the Chinese language. Colonel Barrett recently interviewed 20 Japanese and Korean prisoners taken at the battle of Ssupingkai. He was told by them that they had joined the Communist forces for economic reasons alone, such as unemployment and inadequate food, and they stated that the Communists had not forced them to enter military service. Incidentally, they also stated that they had seen no evidence of Soviet aid to the Communists in the northeast. In this latter connection you may be interested to know that the Central Government, even though asked repeatedly for such evidence, has been unable to show direct Soviet assistance to the Chinese Communists in Manchuria. We feel here that this in itself is not as important as the ideological affinity existing between the Chinese Communists and the Soviet Union, and that the position of the Chinese Communists in Manchuria is such that overt Soviet assistance is not, for the time being, necessary. Central Government field commanders in Manchuria tend to be more realistic on this score than the propaganda handouts at Nanking. For example, General Cheng, the Acting Commander of the Northeast Chinese Command, recently expressed to Colonel Barrett the belief that the Soviets were not supplying the Chinese Communists with any Soviet equipment because the capture of any such equipment would tend to uncover ultimate Soviet intentions in the northeast. General Cheng did maintain, however, that the Soviets are continuing to supply the Chinese Communists with Japanese equipment.
I trust this information will be of interest to you and the Embassy would appreciate receiving any thoughts you may have on this subject. In future, the Embassy will arrange to forward to you any data received with regard to Korean activities in Manchuria.