MOSCOW (AP) _ Two American historians said Wednesday they have found proof in newly opened Soviet archives that Josef Stalin approved the North Korean attack that began the Korean War in 1950.

Western historians have long suspected that the Soviet dictator authorized the invasion.

Kathryn Weathersby of Florida State University and David Holloway of Stanford University said the proof came in a newly declassified report that was prepared by the Soviet foreign ministry for Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in 1966.

According to the report, Stalin gave North Korean leader Kim Il Sung permission for the invasion during meetings in Moscow in March and April 1950.

Soviet military advisers then helped to draft the battle plans, and Stalin ''gave orders that all of Kim's desires for weapons and equipment should be met quickly,'' Holloway said.

After visiting Moscow, Kim went to China, where he also obtained advance approval for the attack from leader Mao Tse-Tung, according to the report to Brezhnev. The report cites telegrams between Stalin and Kim that are still classified.

More than 60,000 North Korean troops streamed across the 38th parallel into South Korea on June 25, 1950, in an attempt to bring the entire country under Communist rule. Korea had been divided into Soviet and American occupation zones since the end of World War II.

United Nations troops led by the United States drove back the North Koreans in fighting that ended with an armistice in July 1953. More than 33,000 Americans and an estimated 2 million Chinese and Koreans died in battle.

Weathersby and Holloway said the documents show that Kim repeatedly pressed Stalin for permission to start the war, as former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev claimed in his memoirs. Until now, Khrushchev's memoirs were the best evidence that Stalin approved the invasion.

The American researchers announced their findings at a conference sponsored by the Cold War International History Project, based at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

Dozens of Russian and American historians are presenting papers at the four-day conference, which began Tuesday at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Almost all of the research is based on Communist Party Central Committee archives declassified since the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991.

The conference has accelerated the release of once-secret documents, but many crucial archives remain closed, organizer James G. Hershberg said.

''This is only a start, although it is a good start,'' he said.

On Tuesday, two Russian scholars revealed that the Soviet Union pushed North Vietnam to make peace with the United States in 1968.

Ilya Gaiduk and Oganez Marinin said Soviet leaders feared that the Vietnam War could escalate into a global conflict and arranged secret meetings between U.S. and North Vietnamese officials in Moscow before formal peace talks were held in Paris in 1968-69.

Other papers presented Wednesday contained new evidence about the split between the Soviet Union and China in 1958-61. Konstantin Pleshakov of Moscow's Institute of the USA and Canada disclosed that China did not notify the Soviets before it shelled the nationalist Chinese islands of Quemoy and Matsu in August 1958, causing a major East-West crisis.

Pleshakov suggested that the Chinese deliberately incited the crisis because they feared Khrushchev was moving toward better relations with the capitalist world.