Facing a blunt U.S. warning against meddling and its own well-founded worries over the fate of SALT II, the Kremlin seems certain to exercise extreme caution in dealing with the events in South Korea.
The swift U.S. troops alert and Carter administration's unequivocal words made abundantly clear to Moscow that grave consequences could result from any attempts to collaborate with North Korean strongman Kim Il Sung to seek advantage from the assassination of Park Chung Hee Friday in Seoul.
"Any evidence of Soviet conniving inthe north and SALT would go down the drain," one source said."The Soviets are quite aware of this."
There are other reasons for the Kremlin to practice restraint. The Soviets have been and bitterly commented on the political fallout in the U.S. Senate over bilateral tensions. The controversy over Soviet troops in Cuba showed starkly how the strategic arms limitation treaty, a cornerstone of Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev's foreign policy, can be hostage to those tensions.
The Brezhnev leadership consistently has shown conservative instincts in approaching unexpected events in highly sensitive geopolitical arenas such as the Korean peninsula, where heavily armed military forces face each other across a hostile demarcation zone. Major armed conflict between North and South would inevitably draw in U.S. forces with likely disastrous results for bilateral relations between the two superpowers. The Soviets know this very well and will move gingerly as a result, many Western observers here agree.
Moscow's greatest worry may center on any independent moves by Kim, such as armed raids to deepen the crisis with the aim of drawing the great powers into a confrontation. Seen from here, however, such a possibility seems remote. Furthermore, the Soviets appear certain to oppose it in the strongest terms. Moscow's influence in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, has waned in the years since the Korean war and in recent years has shown some signs of considerable strain. Kim walks a narrow path between China and the Soviet Union and the communist rivals' differences have been reflected in his dealings with Moscow and Peking.
At the same time, the Kremlin will not miss the chance for a propanganda windfall. The official Tass news agency has suggested that the slaying was plotted by the United States and compared it to the assassination of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963.
"Only the future will show whether it was a preventive action for replacing one puppet with another," Tass wrote about Park's slaying. "There have been quite a few such cases in the past."
Meanwhile, news services reported that the North Korean Communist Party newspaper Rodong Shinmun said Park's slaying reflected a growing political crisis and social chaos in South Korea. It said the struggle against "fascist" rule had intensified in the South.
[China's official party newspaper, the People's Daily, wrote that Park "died as a result of a shooting within his own clique" and that "this is what the head of the fascists deserves."]