Created: 5/16/1968

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The Likelihood of Major Hostilities in Korea

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The following intelligence organizations participated in Ihe preparation of this estimates

The Central Intelligence Agency and tha intelligence orgonUatiom of theof State and Defense, and the NSA


Vice Adm. ftufos Taylor, Deputy Director, Central Intelligence

Mr. George C. Denney,or the Director of Intelligence and Reieorch,of Stole Lt. Gen. Joseph F. Carroll, the Olreetor, Defense Intelligence Agency It. Gen. Marshall S. Carter, the Director, Notional Security Agency


Dr.eicfcardt, lor the Assistant General Manager, Atomic Energyand Mr. William O. Cregar, for the Assistant Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the subject being outside of their jurii diet Ion.


This material contains mfotniarSon offectlng the National Defense of the United States vrtthln the moaning of the espionage laws. Title IB, USC., theor revelation of which in any manner to an unauthorised person Is prohibited.

renewed effort to establish bases In the mountainous hinterland. On thefront, the bellicose line adopted by North Korean Premier Kim Il-song at lhe6 Korean Labor Party Conference has heen maintained, with somewhat greater truculence since the Ptwblu incident. It is apparent,that we are entering another cycle of North Korea's campaign of violence and intimidation against the ROK.

2 We have reviewed the available evidence and concluded once again that, under presentyongyang does not intend to invade South Korea. Nor do we believe that, at least for the neat year or so, Pyongyang will take actions that it considers involve high risk ofew Korean War. This judgment rests in part on our view of bow North Korea would assess its prospectsew war. Despite the emphasb on modernizing its armed forces, onreserves and increasing local militia, and on the protection of keyagainst air attack. Pyongyang almost certainly would not expect toSouth Korea or to escape scrioui damage in the North. The ROK Army is superior in numbers; Pyongyang would almost certainly consider that the presence of US forces virtually assured their participation and their reinforcement if necessary; and North Korea itself would require material support, and probably manpower, from China or thehus, any planseliberate attack leadingenewal of the Korean War would require the assurance of support from the USSR, China, or both. Under present circumstances, it is extremely doubtful that Pyongyang would receive any assurances in advance from either Communist power that the support requiredarge-scale conflict in South Korea would be available.

More directly, wc do not see indications of preparations of the nature and scope we would expect to ice if North Korea were planning war or expected it in the near future. There is, for example, nothis nation of chronicunusually large imports of food or medicines, or other unusual international transactions. There have been rumors of increased draft calls, mobilization of reserves, unusual troop movements and deployments, and the buildup of stockpiles near tbe DMZ. but none of these or similar indicators of impending large-scale action are supported by reliable evidence. The "war is corning" tone of letters from North Korea to Japan appears to reflect official propaganda: such letters almost certainly suit tbe regime's purposes since all outgoing mail is carefully censored. Finally, if North Korea wereurpriseould seem unwise to foment tension and keep the ROK and the US on tbe alert.

Nor do we believe that the North Koreans are trying to provoke the ROKesumption of major hostilities. Pyongyang might hope thus to activate Us defense treaties with China and the USSR, and also to avoid condemnation by world opinion. But we do not believe that the North Korean leaders would expect either the USSR or Communlit China to cooperatecounterattack" that could overrun the South.


We do believe, however, that Pyongyang is engagedetermined effort to create the conditionspeoples* war" in South Korea. Wc also believe that Pyongyang currently rates the risks ol this enterprise as not very high. The North Koreans probably view the US involvement in Vietnam and the resultant discord in the US as limiting the military capabilities and the will ol the US to support any serious HOK retaliatory ventures against the North. US restraint in the Pueblo affair probably strengthened this view, and North Koreanprobablyeasonably accurate picture of Washington's pressures on the ROK to forgo strong retaliatory measures in the Blue House and other affairs.

Thus, Pyongyang probably feels reasonably safe in creating incidents along tlie DMZ and in carrying out terrorist attacks throughout South Korea. These serve to give some credence at home to its claims of "imperialist aggression"eveloping resistance movement in the South. Pyongyang also intends them to embarrass and distract the ROK Government and tooss of confidence in its leaders which could, in time, loosen their control of the nation.these actions have caused some misunderstanding and strains between the ROK and the US.

Pyongyang might be tempted to go well beyond incidents along the DMZ. It might, for example, attempt to seize andiece of territory south of the DMZ oraid into South Korea widi fairly large farces. We do not entirely rule out such actions. They would depend on how Pyongyang judged the probable reactions of the US and ROK. In general, however, we believe that Pyongyang would consider such moves as too risky, especially any attempt to hold South Korean territory.

Kim's present course of actionis South Korea datessome indications of long-range preparations for intensified action were visible earlier. After several years of economic difficulty at home and consistent failure to capitalize on political unrest In the South, the frustrated Kim attempted to inject some dynamism into his regime by securing tighter control over the government and driving the population to greater efforts in its behalf. He seems to have succeeded in pruning much ol what he considered dcadwood from the government, the party, the military, and theeries of low-keyed purges has reduced his leadership groupandful of trusted comrades; and Kim has demanded and is receiving personal adulation on an unprecedented scale.

Public participation in the regime's many new programs has been fostered (along with acceptance of hardships) by nationalistic exhortations to prepare for "the foremost revolutionarya Communist takeover of the South and reunification on Pyongyang's terms. In Kim's doctrine, the success of thestruggle in the South requires paraDel efforts lo build up the revolutionary base in the North, to improve its economy so that it will impress the southerners, and to strengthen its defense against the day when reactionary forces in the South, in desperation, strike northward. It is apparent that to make this line credible requires,inimum, some evidence of revolutionary struggle in the Southemonstrably aggressive enemy along the DMZ. War tensions

apparently prevailing among the northerners are evidence that the regime has achieved some degree of success in its indoctrination program.

This does not mean that North Korea will be satisfied with the mere semblanceevolution in the South. Pyongyang's violent actionsoupled with its longstanding campaign of political subversion in South Korea, attest to the seriousness of its purpose. But Pyongyang probably has littleofevolutionary movement in the South in the near term. North Korean theoreticians tend to emphasize the inadequate basis foraction in the South and the time and energy required to develop one. Thus, the leadership probably views its current efforts as partong-term campaign to upset the political equilibrium in the South, meanwhilein some measure the existing Communist clandestine apparatus there.

It is possible that North Korean leaders have persuaded themselves that political and military conditions in the US and in Korea, as well as in Vietnam, make this year the best timeadical intensification of tliis revolutionary strategy. In our view, however. North Korea is not committed to any particular sequence of moves nor to any firm timetable. Pyongyang's propaganda, into the statements of captured North Korean infiltrators, has invariably been vague on timing; the phrase most frequently used is "within ourhe North Korean plan of action appears similarly flexible; ROK and US defense measures and other responses, and the demonstrated effectiveness of various types of North Korean operations arc the prime considerations. At any rate, to serve Pyongyang's current strategy, the campaign of violence need only continue; there seems to be no requirement for escalation to the level of major hostilities.

In this situation, the principal danger in the short term is one ofthat North Korea, in the process of probing ROK and US resolve, will overplay its hand and that an increasingly exasperated President Pak will order large-scale retaliation. Pyongyang's response in this situation would be difficult to predict with any degree of confidence. On the one hand, the North Koreans might feel that they had to accept the ROK retaliation because, at this juncture, the risk of major hostilities would seem too high. It seems more likely, however, tbat they would feel compelled to respond with commensurate force. Though North Korea would probably stop short of actions certain toull-scale war, the proximity of hostile armies would make the situation highly volatile and war could result.

Inrisis, decisions in Pyongyang and Seoul on any further moves would probably be affected, and perhaps decisively, by the attitudes and advice of their major allies. In our view, neither the USSR nor Communist China wouldar in Korea to be in its interest. Without flatly refusing Pyongyang all military support, they would probably encourage North Korea to limit hostilities.

The Longer Term. In anyense and risky situation is likely to continue in Korea well beyond the one year period ol this estimate. song

elatively young man; he appears lo be in firm control in the North; and his hard-line views are likely lo hold sway there lor many years. Of criticalwill be the ability of the ROK people over the years to stand united against Communist subversion, and tbe ability of ROK forces to cope effectively with North Korean harassments. ROK confidence in the face of these long-term threats will depend heavily on the US posture in the Far East.


north and south korean forces

attack. It has, and at least 60

The North Korean Armytrength of. It is probably at full strength,arger proportion in combat units than US/ROK forces have. North Korean troops are disciplined, highly trained, and alert. By thcir slandards they are probably combat-ready. We do not know to what extent, if any, their heavy ground equipment is currently being replaced or augmented by the Soviets. With the exception of assault rifles and some new rockets, Soviet-designed weapons of World War II continue to predominate. Present stockpiles appear sufficient to support offensive action for atonth.

The South Korean Army hasersonnel and the marine force numbersf the total forces,0 arc in Vietnam. ROK units are limited by old equipment, shortages of spare parts, and very austere supply levels. The two US divisions in Korea are under strength and not rated as having attained combat-ready status.

On balance, we estimate that neither side has the ability to conduct aattackor six months) orecisive advantage withoutoutside logistical support.

two vears. Over the past three years, the number of surface-to-air missileites has increasedhere areet light bombers, which, with its fighters, provide North Korea an offensive capability unmatched by the ROK Air Force. The ROKs haveighter aircraft,os, but aboutupersonic fighters have been introduced. The BOK Air Force has been heavily reinforced since the Pueblo incident by the basing ofS supersonic jet fighters in South Korea.

he North Korean Navy isoastal patrol and inshore defense force. Its main offensive strength includes at least 4submarines, atKumar"-class guided missile boats and associated Styx missiles,Shemhrn"-class fast patrol boats. The "Komars" and "Shcrshcni" have probably been provided by the USSR over the past two years or so. North Korea also hasthur motor torpedo boats, and there are atruise missile coastal defense eom]>lexcs. The ROK Navy Is alsooastal patrol force; it has abouthips,estroyerast attack0 patrol ships, andmphibious ships.


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