the Korean War 1950-53


The Korean War, 1950-3

Japan had annexed Korea in 1910. During the second world war, at the Cairo conference in 1943, Roosevelt and the Chinese leader Chiang Kai-Shek declared that the country should be independent once the war was won. After the Soviet Union declared war on Japan on 8 August 1945 its troops began to enter Korea from the north. American troops did not land in the south until the 8th of September. The Americans and the Soviets had agreed for practical reasons to divide Korea along the 38th parallel with USA occupying the south and the USSR occupying the North. In July 1948, the republic of Korea was set up in the south, with Syngman Rhee as president; and in the same month the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was created in the North under the rule of Kim Il Sung. Both leaders were intense nationalists. Willing to use force to unite the country. Soviet troops withdrew from North Korea in December 1948 and Americans from the South in June 1949 both left behind military missions and advisers. The two rival Koreas then confronted each other in a state of profound hostility. 

On 25 June 1950, North Korean forces crossed the 38th parallel, and advanced further south. Whilst Stalin had initially rejected Kim Il Sung’s proposal for war in 1949, he finally accepted in April 1950 on the condition that the North must be sure of quick success and their must be no time for the USA to intervene. The USSR provided military equipment and advisers. The date of the attack was set for 25 June. 

Thus, Kim Il Sung proposed, but Stalin decided. Why did Stalin change his mind? 

  1. Stalin did not wish to appear to be holding back the cause of revolution in Asia by restraining Kim. 
  2. The Chinese could now be brought in to share the risk of starting a war in Korea. 
  3. The atomic test may have also instilled an extra degree of confidence in Stalin.

In any case, the risks did not seem great. There was little reason for Stalin to believe that the Americans would intervene. In March 1949, General MacArthur, the American commander in Japan, stated publicly that the American defensive perimeter in the pacific ran along a string of islands from the Philippines to the Aleutians, excluding Korea. This policy was confirmed by the secretary of state Dean Acheson on 12 January 1950 in a speech. 

However, the US abandoned all of these statements and intervened in Korea. On 25 June, the day of the North Korean attack, the Americans put a resolution to the Security council of the United Nations calling for a ceasefire and the withdrawal of the NK forces behind the 38th parallel. The resolution was passed with 9 votes to nil. The Soviet Union, which could have vetoed the decision was boycotting the meetings of the Security Council due to their refusal to let China have a permanent seat. That same evening,


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