The United States' Emergence as a Southeast Asian Power, 1940-1950

The United States' Emergence as a Southeast Asian Power, 1940-1950

The United States' Emergence as a Southeast Asian Power, 1940-1950

The United States' Emergence as a Southeast Asian Power, 1940-1950

Excerpt

This study traces the development of U.S. policy in Southeast Asia during the critical period beginning with the Japanese-American rivalry over the region in 1940-1941--when the United States sought to protect its own substantial interests in the region as well as those of the European colonial powers-- and concluding with the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950. During that decade, the American interst in Southeast Asia increased substantially with the consistent objective of building close political and economic relations between the region and the Western nations, and, by 1949, with Japan as well. The extensive post-World War II planning, in which the State Department engaged from 1942 to 1945, sought to forestall anti- Western political movements and upheavals by providing for a peaceful, gradual transitition from European colonial rule to independence. After the war, the nationalist upheavals throughout Southeast Asia, particularly those in Indonesia and Indochina, forced the United States to make difficult choices between supporting the colonial policies of European allies or endorsing the nationalist aspirations of colonial peoples. With Communist leadership dominating the nationalist movement in Indochina and Communist influence strong elsewhere, especially in Burma and the Philippines, Southeast Asia appeared, by 1948-1949 as the Chinese Communist approached victory in their civil war struggle against the Kuomintang, to be especially vulnerable. The plans to rebuild the Japanese economy as a means of enhancing American interests in the Pacific also increased the importance of Southeast Asia for it could provide raw materials and markets for the Japanese. Thus, by the time of the Communist victory in China and the beginning of the Korean War, the United States had made plans to increase substantially its political, economic, and military commitments to the region.

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