DIRECTORATE OF INTELLIGENCE
North Korean Political Strategy
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY Directorate of9
North Korean Political Strategy
Aggressive actions of the North Korean regime toward South Korea and the Unitedby the capture of the Pueblo in January
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The seizure of the Pueblo in8 and the attack on the USeconnaissancein9 were acts of political warfare. Theyey element of Premier Kim Il-songJs strategy for advancing three major objectives: in the North to solidify further his political position and to stir the population to greater economicin the South to undermine confidence in the government and to exacerbate its relations with the US; in relationship to the us, to capitalize on the US public's disenchantment with the burdens and risks of military commitments in Asia and ultimately toetrenchment in American cocnnitments, particularly the withdrawal of US forces from Korea.
Kim Il-song has been quoted as saying, "The Vietnam war is crucial. The defeat of the United States in Vietnam will mark the end of American power in Asia." Kim's view closelyMaoist China's evident conviction that the Vietnamese Communists mustefeat on US policy that would force the US to retract its power and commitments in East Asia. This* they believe/ would remove the principal barrier to theof Chinese aspirations in Southeast Asia and to North Korean objectives in the South.
Nnrth Korean Pressure Tactics
The attempted to stems partly prospects in the military
eagerness with which Kim Il-song has exploit the US involvement in Vietnam from North Korea's increasingly bleak competing with South Korea. Prior to :oup in South Korea inyongyang relied on propaganda and politicalagainst the Southigh economic growth rate in the North to set the stage for eventual unification of the peninsulaommunist re-Time aooeared to be on the side of the North
ut throughout the resident Pak's leadership
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has outpaced the North in terms of both international standing and economic growth. The South's rate of economic growth has been double that of the North for most of the past decade; it is now increasing almost three times as fast. There is littlethat the North can unaided revive its lagging economy and avoid falling even further behind.
South Korea's normalization treaty with Japan5 alsoajor setback for the North. Pyongyang's efforts to forestall and discredit this agreement underscored its fear that the treaty, which provided0 million in Japanese economic assistanceen-year period, would lead to the re-establishment of stronginfluence in the South and would erect another formidable barrier to North Korea's long-term aim of extending its control over the entire peninsula.
Another reflection of Kim's decision that bold action was necessary to check South Korea's growing'momentum and power was his abandonment of earlier proposals for the "peaceful reunification" of the country based on "democratic" elections.
He has publicly set the goal of achieving"within our generation." In his6 speech. Kimrogram for achieving this goal byevolution of "patriotic forces" in the South which would unite with the North to expel US forces, overthrow the Seoul government, anda "peoples' government." He called forilitant Communist party in the South to lead the revolution and toroad anti-US "national salvation front."
has acknowledged that North Korea hasof achieving unification as long as USin the South. The "supreme national task"the Korean people, he has declared, is toUS imperialist aggressors from our soil" andtheir "stooges" in Seoul. Until thisaccomplished, unification is "unthinkable."
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more risky provocations with relative impunity. The Blue House raid.and the seizure of the Pueblo followed. The North Koreans clearly calculated that their possession of the Pueblo and its crew would exert an additional powertul deterrent against retaliatory action, Pyongyang took pains to draw attention to its leverage by threatening to try and punish the Pueblo crew.
13. The overriding aims of humiliating the US, generating public opposition in the US to American military activities in the Korean area, and obtaining visible evidence for the Korean people of "victory- over the US guided Pyongyang to pressormal US apology throughout the eleven-month period of negotiations. After the release of the Pueblo crew, the North Koreans portrayed the document signed by the US represent ative confession" of guilt, claimed that
North Korea had provedetermined smallcouldmightyndthe US "humiliation" in the Pueblo affair to the "abject surrender" of the UN command in3 Korean armistice.
From the standpoint of advancing North Korean objectives against the US, the outcome of thencidentajor disappointment for the Pyongyang regime. In contrast with the Pueblo affair, the initial uncertainty in international opinion about the location of the shootdown was quickly dispelled by the US and Soviet search operationsiles from the Korean coast and by President Nixon's announcement that both North Korean and Soviet radar tracking confirmed that the aircraft had never been closer thaniles to North Korean territory.
Pyongyang never overcame thisbeginning. Its propaganda media devotedlight coverage to the incident, and much of this was geared to supporting domestic goals of the regime. The governmentormaluntil five days after President Nixon had announced the resumption of reconnaissance flights under protection. The defensive tone of Pyongyang's statement indicated that the regime was well aware of its weak international position. Zteeble attempt to link theith the Pueblo and to arouse opposition to USoycTaiming there was no "guarantee" thatUS reconnaissance flights "will not intrude again." Asideorth Vietnamese expression of support and lukewarm, pro forma Soviet support. North Korea's isolation was complete. Xt was forced to resort to private appeals to its allies and friends abroad for some gestures of support.
Korea's eight-day delay in issuing
a formal statement on thencident apparently was prompted not only by the regime's awareness of its vulnerable propaganda position but also by a
17, Kim Il-song's taste for risky ventures is sometimes attributed to wishful thinking andof grandeurevolutionary leader. But these personal characteristics, however important, probably are less influential in shaping histhan the hard and unpromising facts of North Korea's objective situation and Kim's perception of opportunities to alter these conditions to his The North Korean Government is not only losing ground in the contest fcr power and prestige to an increasingly prosperous South Korea, butany firm assurance of military protection and direct support in crisis situations from the USSR andthat would counterbalance the US role inighlyfuture.
19. There is little prospect that Kim will abandon the political strategy that produced the Pueblo andncidents. From Pyongyang'spoint, neither the urgent pressures ofwith the South nor exploitable opportunities abroad have diminished. Even if the next year or so shouldettlement in Vietnam orreductions in the level of combat and the number of US forces involved, it is unlikely that such developments in themselves wouldarked shift in North Korea's present policy. Much would depend on Kim's interpretation of the outcome in Vietnam, particularly its bearing on future American military posture and intentions throughout East Asia,
19. There are additional factors, bothand foreign, that will probably encourage Kirn to persist in his tactics against South Korea and
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the US4 In the first place, Kim's deep personal commitmentrogram of maximum militarydescribed as "fortification of the wholend to the goal of reunification "within our generation" hasowerful momentum across the entire range of North Korean policies.
tioning and unconditional acceptance of hisand constant agitation to instill militant discipline in the population will make itfor Kim to reverse coursehort period of time. In addition, Kim Il-song, like Mao,heavily on the domestic tension and hatred generated by an "aggressive US imperialism" to motivate his people and toocial revolution aliveation where ancient attitudes die hard. Such tension and hatred must be fed periodically by fresh
The political crisis in the South over amending the constitution to permit President Pak to runhird term willtrong incentive for the North Koreans to intensify infiltration and subversive operations. They may be tempted to exaggerate the opportunities for disruptionby recent student demonstrations in Seoul protesting the third-term amendment. It was the students, after all, who spearheaded the drive to overthrow the Syngman Rhee regime
Pyongyang, however,ilemma in trying to exploit South Korean politicalharp upsurge in pressure and subversion would not only invite harsh repressive action by the Seoul government but would impair the North's abili ty to take advantage of the sentiment for early reunification among student and intellectual groups in the South. Such action could, indeed, backfire and improve Pak's third-term prospects. The great majority of South Koreans could wellharp rise in the threat from the Northompelling argument for keeping Pak in
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22. The limitations on the North's ability to intervene effectively in South Korean politics, combined with its poor chances for developing guerrilla bases and significant political support in the countryside, may prompt Pyongyang toits main attention on harassing actions against the US presence and attempting to shake South Korean confidence in US protection. In addition to further attacks on US ships orthat may offer targets of opportunity, the North Koreans may attempt provocations against US personnel and installations in the South.