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ASIANPERSPECTIVE, Vol. 25, No. 1, 2001, pp. 249-257 Commentary Editor's Note: In our third issue of 2000 we published a commen­ tary by Milton Leitenberg, "The Korean War Biological Weapon Allegations: Additional Information and Disclosures." The question ofBW use by U.S. forces during the Korean War continues to be a matter ofdebate among specialists. In view ofreader interest, we are publishing another viewpoint below. TWELVE NEWLY RELEASED SOVIET-ERA "DOCUMENTS" AND ALLEGATIONS OF U.S. GERM WARFARE DURING THE KOREAN WAR Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman In 1998 a Japanese journalist from the Tokyo newspaper, Sankei Shimbun, found or was given eleven documents of 1953 and one of 1952 from the Presidential Archives in Moscow which he claimed showed that the Chinese and North Korean charges that the United States used biological weapons in the Korean War were fabricated and fraudulent. The documents were trans­ lated into English by Kathryn Weathersby of the Cold War International History Project at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, and were also published by Milton Leitenberg.1 The documents have become fodder for sensationalist journalistic articles in the American press as well as the subject of interpreta­ tion by academic historians. It is our view that these documents, even if they turn out to be genuine, are by themselves inadequate for showing the Chinese and North Korean charges are fraudulent. It is necessary to 250 Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman know as well both what was going on in the USSR at the time and some subsequent events that throw light on the subject. Our first observation is that the twelve "documents" are not the kind of evidence upon which scholarly research is usually based. In this case the original source in Moscow is not disclosed, the name of the collection is not identified, and there is no volume number that would allow other scholars to locate and check the documents. The documents are not photocopies; they are merely hand-written copies or notes purportedly taken from the origi­ nals. (When these issues are clarified it may be time to remove the quotation marks surrounding the word "documents"). Further questions about motives in transferring documents are raised because they were obtained from an unidentified source and given to a journalist for a right-wing Japanese newspaper. Factional Struggle for Power Our analysis of the documents follows. It is immediately apparent that they mainly deal with a factional struggle for power in the higher levels of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in the months immediately after Stalin died in March 1953. The struggle portrayed here involves members of two sepa­ rate government ministries concerned with state security, both of which had sent agents to North Korea, as well as members of the presidium of the CPSU. Lavrenti Beria, deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers at that time and the person in charge of security police affairs for the CPSU, was one of the main aspirants to Stalin's mantle. Alleg­ ing a cover-up and falsification of reporting about U.S. germ war­ fare in Korea, he tried to destroy the career of a rival, Semen D. Ignatiev, Minister of State Security, and have him expelled from the communist party. According to the found documents, Ignatiev was charged with being "under the thumb" of an adven­ turist and "secret enemy of the Soviet people" who "allowed . . . the falsification of investigative materials." In an ironic turn of events, Beria himself was called a for­ eign spy by the winning faction in the party leadership struggle, led by Malenkov, Molotov, and Khrushchev, a month later in July 1953. He was tried and executed before the end of the year. Soviet-Era "Documents" and Allegations of U.S. Germ Warfare 251 Rival Soviet Ministries During the last years of Stalin's leadership there were two ministries that had some similar or overlapping functions relat­ ing to state security and by their competition and rivalries Stalin hoped to keep better informed on what was actually happening in this realm. Previously Beria had been in charge of all the secu­ rity police. Now there were parallel organizations for this work in the Ministry...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2288-2871
Print ISSN
0258-9184
Pages
pp. 249-257
Launched on MUSE
2021-03-23
Open Access
No
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