An excerpt from the documents from the documents released on April 17 by
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Image: Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Newly released documents have revealed that
in the 1980s, Kim Il Sung commented to the former King of Cambodia, Norodom
Sihanouk, “We can’t rely on the Soviet Union, and we don’t rely on China.” This
indicates that although North Korea sought to maintain close relationships with
both the Soviets and the Chinese throughout the Cold War, Kim Il Sung remained
wary of the two.
A number of diplomatic documents covering
the period were released on the 17th by the South Korean Ministry of Foreign
Affairs. The Deputy Chief of mission to Seoul at the time, John Cameron Monjo,
said in an interview with Park Sang Yong, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, on
March 4th, 1980, that this statement was made in a then recent interview
between King Sihanouk and Richard Holbrooke, Assistant Secretary of State for
East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
Secretary Holbrooke explained that King
Sihanouk had told him that North Korea had no intention of invading the South.
In addition, he referenced the fact that Kim Il Sung appeared to be in ill
health and the huge goiter on his neck was impossible to miss.
After being removed from power following a
coup d’etat in 1970, King Sihanouk lived in exile in North Korea and maintained
a relationship with Premier Kim Il Sung that was “as close as blood brothers.”
Kim Il Sung gifted Sihanouk with a palatial residence on the outskirts of
Pyongyang, and Sihanouk called Kim Il Sung “closer than a friend or relative.”
There are also suspicions that North Korea
in the 1980s imported weapons from Iran, Bangladesh, and other countries and
engaged in secret military cooperation, such as joint training exercises.
The documents additionally reveal that Vice
Minister Park said in an interview on October 6th, 1980 with Deputy Chief Monjo
that, “Iranian Boeing 747s are coming and going at Pyongyang airport daily, and
we have learned the serial numbers and shipment schedules of these planes.” He
then asked the Deputy Chief if the Americans had acquired more detailed
information regarding the contents of these shipments, to which the Deputy
Chief replied that as it was difficult to distinguish the contents even using
satellites, doubts remained as to exactly what they were.
In July 1980, Vice Minister Park said in
another interview with Deputy Chief Monjo that there had been witness reports
of uniformed North Korean soldiers in the Seychelles islands, and they had
obtained intelligence showing that 100 Bangladeshi soldiers were receiving
military training in North Korea. He expressed concern regarding the matter,
stating, “As confirmation of this intelligence would confirm that North Korea
is exporting the revolution, we cannot regard it as trivial.”
After holding on to these documents for the
past 30 years, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reportedly decided to release
them to the public for both academic purposes and because the people have a
right to know. The Ministry has been releasing diplomatic documents after
reviewing them for sensitive information annually since 1994.