Guest Column; US Policy on the Korean War

Korea Times (Seoul, Korea), July 27, 2000 | Go to article overview

Guest Column; US Policy on the Korean War


Although the Korean War was a civil war, it involved foreign intervention from the very start. The war did not officially take effect until North Korean president Kim Il-sung received Moscow's approval, which went unopposed by Beijing. This call for outside support began a war that engendered international support for both sides, while serving broader geopolitical purposes. The confrontation was also considered the first major international test of whether a limited war was possible in an age of atomic weapons.

The origin of the conflict is found in the artificial division of the Korean peninsula in 1945, due to the failure of occupational powers to reach an agreement on the independence of the Korean nation. When North Korean troops invaded the South, the Secretary-General of the United Nations regarded the attack as an act of war against the U.N.

The U.N. Security Council then met on June 25 (June 26 in Korea) and called for the cessation of hostilities and a North Korean withdrawal. The resolution passed because of the inadvertent absence of the Soviet delegate.

On June 27, the Security Council recommended that member nations assist South Korea, and over the course of continuing hostilities, sixteen nations provided troops to the South under a joint U.N. command led by the United States.

President Truman announced that the U.S. would vigorously support the U.N. The next day, he ordered the U.S. Air Forces and U.S. Navy to give South Korean troops cover and support. Truman also instructed the military to send all spare ammunition in U.S. possession to Korea.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur was authorized to intervene in the war on the Korean peninsula. On June 30 Truman sanctioned Gen. MacArthur to use ground troops to defend the South. However, the U.S.-South Korean troops were no match for the North Korean forces continuing their southward advance, and they completely occupied the South with the exception of the Pusan perimeter.

On June 30, president Truman also authorized bombing missions on military targets north of the 38th parallel. Rather than waiting for poll results or for further news from the war front, Truman acted quickly with the help of his advisers to get the U.S. into the war.

In July 1950 South Korean president Syngman Rhee sent a message to Gen. MacArthur describing the situation of the ROK Army in the war, which said:''All ROK army are put under your command to carry out the war.'' ROK Armed Forces were thereafter under UNC control, marking the first time the ROK army was integrated into the U.S. army as first class liaison officers and as KATUSAs (Korean Augmentation to the United States Army).

After the Inchon landing, Seoul returned to the UNC side and North Korean forces were pushed back. President Rhee, founding father of the Republic of Korea, strongly advocated a unification of the peninsula by means of U.N. military force. President Truman and president Rhee agreed that the Korean peninsula should be free of communism, but their respective ideas of ``free'' were very different.

President Truman regarded Korea as an important ``container of communism,'' while president Rhee advocated the unification of the peninsula against communism at all costs. Rhee believed that the separation of the peninsula at the 38th parallel was unacceptable.

In the early summer of 1951, after a year of brutal war, the U.S. Congress put pressure on Truman to make a choice -- to pull American troops out of the Korean peninsula, or to bomb Manchuria or even China. America's closest ally, Great Britain, and some NATO members were pushing for the armistice.

By mid-summer in 1951, the Soviet representative to the U.N. proposed a discussion for the truce talks. The American government accepted the proposal and entered into negotiations with North Korea.

The truce talks continued for two years, with most issues settled within the first few months. …

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