Harry S. Truman: The Man from Independence

By William F. Levantrosser | Go to book overview

bombs and other incendaries. After permission was granted, Livingston Merchant commented, "Despite the nature of the bomb and the risk it might later be used against Hong Kong in SEA [Southeast Asia], I think we should place no obstacle in the path of Chinese procurements."22

The outbreak of the Korean War makes it impossible to determine what the American reaction would have been if an invasion of Taiwan had predated that in Korea. It is clear, however, that this action implied that the State Department perceived a connection between Korea and Taiwan, at least concerning the goal of stopping the further spread of "Soviet-inspired" communism in Asia. Dean Acheson has commented that the Soviet Union"had always been behind every move" in Korea and China. 23 Both South Korea and Taiwan had been excluded from Acheson's "defense perimeter" in Asia described in his January speech. There were several other similarities in the situations in these two areas. The Joint Chiefs had decided by 1948 that the United States should not use its military forces to prevent either Korea or Taiwan from falling to the communists. 24 Although South Korea was "liberated" from Japan by American troops after World War II, the American occupation came to an end on June 29, 1949 because American military strength was overextended throughout Europe and other parts of Asia. Political and economic means were to be used to create a stronger South Korea, independent from the United States. This policy was similar to that utilized in Taiwan. But what if this were not successful? It was planned that the United States would not act unilaterally in Korea or Taiwan, if possible--the United Nations might take over in these areas. John J. Muccio, American ambassador to Korea at this time, has commented that that was "exactly what happened in Korea." 25 It is possible that such a plan could have also been carried out in Taiwan since similar ideas had been under consideration since early 1949. But, as Admiral Sidney Souers, Truman's head of the National Security Council, has commented, "When the U.S. went back into Korea, the President took advantage of the situation and stuck the Seventh Fleet between Formosa and the Mainland."26


NOTES
1.
Memorandum by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Forrestal, November 24, 1948, in U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1949, 9:261-262. In this paper the names Taiwan and Formosa have been used interchangeably. U.S. government documents often use Formosa, the Portuguese name, for the island.
2.
See charts. Butterworth to Lovett, December 16, 1948, FRUS, 1948, p. 234.
3.
Edgar to Acheson, May 6, 1949, FRUS, 1949, 9:328; "The Ownerless Isle," The Economist, May 21, 1949. In June 1949 the Office of Far Eastern Affairs prepared a statement which explained the basis for partially revoking the Cairo Declaration concerning Taiwan in order to gain United Nations support for an independence movement. Butterworth to Rusk, June 9, 1949, FRUS, 1949, 9:346.
4.
Lovett to Truman, January 14, 1949, FRUS, 1949, 9:265-67.
5.
Butterworth to Rusk, June 9, 1949, FRUS, 1949, 9:346.

-86-

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