Memorandum by the Director of the Office of Chinese Affairs (Clubb) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Rusk)


Subject: Communist Intentions: Korea

Reference: CA Memorandum of October 4, 1950, “Chinese Communist Threat of Intervention in Korea”

The presence in North Korea of Chinese Communist forces is now confirmed. Although information is lacking respecting insignia borne by the troops in question, it is clear that in the event that they are participating as regular units of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army the intervention cannot be conceived of as other than direct, even though there be a nominal attempt to keep it anonymous.

It seems unlikely that the Chinese Communists would be prepared to venture into the Korean theater in such a limited manner as would confront them with the danger of being promptly bloodied and thrown out by the force which they themselves have consistently characterized as “a paper tiger”. The recrudescence of Chinese Communist propaganda whipping up enthusiasm of the Chinese people for “resistance to aggression in Korea” would appear to indicate that a larger effort may be involved. It seems unlikely in addition, however, that the Chinese Communists would be prepared to make that larger effort, or that the Soviet Union indeed would wish them to do so, without coordination and understanding from the side of the Soviet Union with respect to the Soviet contribution to the matter in point. The move of intervention would be designed, in short, to achieve some real measure of victory. Although firm information to reach conclusions is still lacking, therefore, it would be hardly safe to assume other than that (1) the Chinese Communists, if they are intervening directly in Korea, propose to do so in considerable force and (2) the Soviet Union would be behind that intervention in accordance with an overall military plan which presumably would purpose the springing of surprises and inflicting of defeats on the UN forces generally and perhaps U.S. forces particularly.

It is believed that the Chinese Communist intervention would not be limited in its purpose and objective to the protection of the Suiho Dam and Power Plant. In Communist ideology political factors generally are given precedence over the economic, and Chinese intervention in the present instance would not have been determined upon for economic factors alone—even where the economic factor was so [Page 1024] important an element as the Suiho power installation. In the overall Moscow and Peiping alike object to the presence of a non-Communist political entity in Korea, and they presumably have decided upon intervention with the aim of redressing what they consider the present imbalance. The propaganda line in Peiping has as yet made no reference to the Suiho power installation so far as noted, but instead is based upon the general concepts that (1) it is desirable to render assistance to the North Koreans and (2) China must resist what is essentially threat of aggression against its own frontiers. The question arises, however, whether the Moscow strategy contemplates action at this time only in North Korea. It is to be noted that Vishinsky recently alleged in the UN that the United States was using Japanese troops in Korea, and that this charge was repeated subsequently by Radio Sinuiju.* This general allegation was repeated by the Peking radio, being [beamed?] to Japan in Japanese, on October 29, stating that a conference was held recently, with General Willoughby and former Lieutenant General Sakurai participating, with the aim of determining how to use Japanese military forces in case United States takes military action in the Far East or particularly in China. That it may be a Soviet design to lay groundwork for citation of the provisions of the Sino-Soviet Alliance of February 14, 1950 in justification of Soviet intervention at some appropriate time must be given due consideration. It is likewise possible of course that the Soviets plan action elsewhere to equal the Chinese Communist effort. The presence of four Soviet armies southwest of Berlin and the current feeling that the Soviets may be about to undertake some move to effect the consolidation of Communist power in Berlin are not to be disregarded. In sum, there is to be considered the definite possibility that the Soviets plan at this juncture to extend the area of conflict.

In the indicated circumstances it would seem highly desirable as a minimum that (1) the UN be kept fully apprised of all confirmed developments in order that our present solid front should be maintained, (2) prompt consideration should be given to the question of what reaction the United States should propose subsequently to the UN to make to Chinese Communist intervention, and (3) we should remain fully alert to possible open involvement of the USSR in the struggle, such involvement resulting “naturally” from the present developments wherein the Chinese Communists have become involved.

With reference to CA memorandum of September 27, 1950, “Chinese Communist Intentions: Formosa, Korea”, reporting inter alia [Page 1025] (page 4) the presence in Manchuria of 15 Soviet divisions, note that the GHQ UN and FEC Intelligence Summary No. 2962 of October 19, 19501 reports (China, page 5) the presence of 46,000 troops of the Mongolian (MPR?) Army located on the Ch’angch’un Railroad between Tashihch’iao and P’ulanien, and about 40,000 Soviet artillery troops “attired in Chinese Communist uniforms” in the Yangshui Mountain area near Fengcheng.

  1. Tokyo, Reuters, Oct. 27, FBIS Daily Report No. 210, Oct. 27, 1950, p. BBB–5. [Footnote in the source text.]
  2. Ibid., Oct. 30, No. 211. [Footnote in the source text.]
  3. Not printed.