Conflict and Tension in Asia



The Cold War was a period of geopolitical tension between the Soviet Union with its satellite states, and the United States with its allies after World War II.The Soviet Union was a communist country whilst the USA was Capatlist.Because both countries had the atomic bomb it was impossible for them to go to war against each other. Instead, they engaged in a Cold War between 1945 and 1989 – a war without actual fighting between American and Russian soldiers. Winston Churchill, the British prime minister, said that an iron curtain had fallen across Eastern Europe which was controlled by the Soviet Union and the USA.


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Causes of the korean war

In 1945, Korea was split along the 38th parallel between a communist north led by Kim IL Sung, and a non-communist south led by Syngman Rhee.

But communism was growing in the Far East. In 1949, the Communists had taken power in China. The US developed the 'domino theory' - the idea that, if one country fell to communism, others would follow like a row of dominoes. Then, in 1950, a report by the American National Security Council  recommended that the US stop containment and start to roll back communism.In 1950, after getting the support of Russia and China, Kim IL Sung invaded South Korea.

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Developments in the korean war

South Korean and United Nations forces entered North Korea and nearly won the war. Then the Chinese entered and pushed the South Korean and United Nations forces back to the 38th parallel. The war bogged down here for the next two and a half years. Eventually, a ceasefire was reached. The terms of the ceasefire changed nothing. The border was still the 38th parallel. North Korea was Communist while South Korea was non-communist. Thus, the war was a stalemate with no clear winner.

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End of the Korean war

  • After the war, North Korea and South Korea remained divided. 
  •  Korean civilian casualties - dead, wounded and missing - totalled between three and four million during the three years of war (1950-1953).
  • North Korea fell into poverty and could not keep up with South Korea's economic pace.
  • The USA managed to prevent South Korea falling into communist hands but the fear of the domino theorywas to impact on US foreign policy decisions for the next 20 years.
  • The USA refused to have any dealings with China.
  • The Korean War had a further legacy as well with 50,000 American soldiers killed. It was also the first war that the US entered and did not win outright.
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Causes of the Vietnam war

Vietnam had been a French colonybefore it was occupied by the Japanese during World War Two. After World War Two it was returned to French control, but many Vietnamese people wanted independence. As a result, in the 1950s the French found themselves fighting a war against the Viet Minh - an organisation dedicated to removing foreign imperlist powers from Vietnam.

The USA began to bankrollthe French war effort in Vietnam. President Truman had said in 1947 that he was committed to halting the spread of communism.In 1954, the French were finally defeated by the Viet Minh.

The outcome of this defeat was formalised in the Geneva Agreement of July 1954 and temporarily separated Vietnam into two zones: a northern zone to be governed by the Viet Minh, and a southern zone to be governed by an anti-communist government led by Ngo Dinh Diem.Ngo Dinh Diem’s government was very unpopular with ordinary Vietnamese people in South Vietnam.The Vietcong( a communist group) begin to fight a guerilla war against the government of South Vietnam.

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Causes of increased US involvment

After World War Two Ho Chi Minh captured Hanoi in 1945 and declared Vietnam independent. The French tried to take control again, but this was unpopular with the people. They were defeated by the Vietminh at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.

The French surrender at Dien Bien Phu and France’s withdrawal from Vietnam triggered greater US involvement there. American delegates attended the Geneva conference of April-July 1954, however, they did not sign the final agreement. 

With American aid and support, South Vietnam would provide a buffer against communists further north. 

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Causes of increased US involvment

Vietnam after the French withdrew :

  •  Representatives from the world’s powers meet in Geneva. The conference marked a turning point in the United States’ involvement in Vietnam. The French agreed to withdraw their troops from northern Vietnam. Vietnam would be temporarily divided at the 17th parallel. The United States belived the agreements would led to a disater so  helped establish a new anti-communist government in South Vietnam and began giving it financial and military assistance.
  • Viet Cong emerged wanting a communist vietnam.
  • Following the overthrow of his government by South Vietnamese military forces the day before, President Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother are captured and killed by a group of soldiers.
  • Stragetic Hamlets
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Johnson's war

The Viet Cong communist guerrillas expanded their operations and defeated the South Vietnamese army (ARVN) in many battles In November, North Vietnam ordered the North Vietnamese Army to infiltrate units into South Vietnam and undertake joint military operations with the Viet Cong.

The new President of the United States, Lyndon Johnson, and his civilian and military advisers wrestled with the problem of a failing government in South Vietnam and military gains by the communists. In August, an attack on American navy vessels caused Johnson to seek and gain U.S. congressional approval of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which authorized him to use military force if necessary to defend South Vietnam. 

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Johnson's war

Vietcong tactics :

  • PEASANTS : The Vietcong treated the peasants in the villages with respect, sometimes even helping them with their workloads in the fields. They needed the peasants to give them food, shelter and hiding places.
  • ENEMY : Land that was taken from large landowners would be given to the peasants. The Vietcong encouraged a fear amongst the peasants that the Americans and South Vietnamese would take this land back. They would frustrate the Americans by simple tactics: retreating when the enemy attacked; raiding enemy camps; attacking the enemy when they were tired and pursuing the enemy when they retreated.
  • GUERILLA : Weapons included daggers and swords, and explosives captured from the Americans to ambush patrols. Booby traps were made from pointed bamboo sticks, mines, grenades and artillery shells. The Vietcong wore no uniform and could not be found in any particular location. Tunnels existed for them to escape into the jungle. 
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Johnson's war

US tactics :

BOMBING: The USA would ultimately drop three million tonnes of bombs in Vietnam .This was called operation rolling thunder.

ESCALATION: President Johnson slowly increased the number of American troops on the ground in Vietnam. In 1965, two battalions of US Marines were deployed to protect military bases at Da Nang. This represented a shift away from ‘military advisors’ to combat troops. In July 1965, Johnson sent another 100,000 troops, and a further 100,000 in 1966.

SEARCH AND DESTROY: From 1965, the American military began a policy of sending soldiers into the jungle and villages of Vietnam to ‘take the war to the enemy’. This often meant soldiers were easy targets for Vietcong guerrilla attacks as the Vietcong were far more at home in the jungle than the American soldiers.

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Johnson's war

Reasons why America struggled to win :

  • Failure of Search and Destroy (My Lai Massacre): Search and Destroy missions were often based on poor military intelligence. The brutal tactics used by US troops often drove more Vietnamese civilians to support the Vietcong. In 1968 American soldiers, searching for Vietcong guerrillas, raided the village of My Lai, killing around 300 civilians it severely damaged America’s reputation and undermined support for the war at home.
  • Role of the media: Events like the My Lai Massacre were reported in the US press leading many ordinary Americans to question the war.
  • Lack of support back home: As the war dragged on more and more Americans began to oppose the war in Vietnam
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Turning points

The Tet Offensive Jan 1968 :

From 30-31 January 1968, 70,000 North Vietnamese soldiers, together with guerrilla fighters of the NLF, launched one of the most daring military campaigns in history. The Tet Offensive was the real turning point in the Vietnam War. Vo Nguyen Giap prepared a bold offensive on two fronts. The first was to be an attack on the US Marines' firebase at Khe Sanh. Simultaneously the NVA and the NLF would stage coordinated attacks on South Vietnam's major cities and provincial capitals. 

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Turning Points

My Lai Massacre :

Search and Destroy missions were often based on poor military intelligence. The brutal tactics used by US troops often drove more Vietnamese civilians to support the Vietcong. In 1968 US soldiers, searching for Vietcong guerrillas, raided the village of My Lai, killing around 300 civilians, including children. The My Laiseverely damaged America’s reputation and undermined support for the war at home.Events like the My Lai Massacre were reported in the US press leading many ordinary Americans to question the war. Film footage of US soldiers burning homes and of the effects of napalm all turned public opinion against the war.

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Nixons war

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