North Korea warned foreigners during Pueblo crisis, too

Apr 08, 2013

North Korea’s recent warnings to diplomats and foreigners living in Pyongyang that their safety cannot be guaranteed because of the tense situation on the Korean Peninsula are not unprecedented. Documents obtained and translated by the North Korea International Documentation Project (NKIDP) reveal that North Korea has issued similar warnings during past crises in Korea.

During the 1968 crisis over North Korea’s seizure of the USS Pueblo, the North persistently advised diplomats from socialist countries to take precautionary measures against American air raids. According to reports produced by the Romanian mission in Pyongyang, embassies in the North Korean capital were instructed to build anti-air bunkers “to protect foreigners against air attacks.”

Information provided by North Korea’s former allies also indicate that the DPRK may not have been simply posturing during the 1968 crisis. Fearing retaliation for seizing the USS Pueblo, the Romanian Ambassador wrote that:

The archives of central institutions, a significant part of the State Library and of the Academy, more than half of the machinery used in the Typographic Complex and probably in many other factories have been moved out of Pyongyang.

For further information, see the following documents in the Wilson Center Digital Archive:

Telegram from Pyongyang to Bucharest, TOP SECRET, No. 76.051, Urgent, 27 February 1968
[Source: Political Affairs Fond, Telegrams from Pyongyang, TOP SECRET, 1968, Archive of the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Obtained and translated for NKIDP by Eliza Gheorghe.]

Telegram from Pyongyang to Bucharest, TOP SECRET, No. 76.054, Urgent, 1 March 1968
[Source: Political Affairs Fond, Telegrams from Pyongyang, TOP SECRET, 1968, Archive of the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Obtained and translated for NKIDP by Eliza Gheorghe.]

Additional documents providing a historical perspective on North Korea’s brinkmanship are available in the collection North Korean Military Adventurism.

 

Experts & Staff

  • Christian F. Ostermann // Director, History and Public Policy Program; Global Europe; Cold War International History Project; North Korea Documentation Project; Nuclear Proliferation International History Project
  • James Person // Deputy Director, History and Public Policy Program; Cold War International History Project; North Korea Documentation Project; Nuclear Proliferation International History Project
  • Charles Kraus // Program Assistant
  • Roy O. Kim // Program Assistant