This preview shows page 168 - 170 out of 202 pages.
Key Takeaways From the Korean War ItselfThe Korean War was an important Cold War watershed for a number of reasons. It massively increased tension, provided a new regional focus in Asia, which became the new danger area in Western eyes, and ensured that armaments and preparing forhot war began to figure more prominently in plans to deal with the Soviets. Its origins and development are still surrounded in controversy despite the recent revelations from communist sources about the actions and thoughts of Stalin and Mao Zedong.The war provides a remarkable example of how internal confl icts can interact with thebroader international situation to determine the nature and development of a military struggle. In particular, Korea provided an example of how a Cold War, which raged asa civil war from June 1950 until October of that year, developed into a regional hot one once the US, acting on behalf of the UN, then became engaged in a major war with China. When the Second World War ended, Korea, as a territory under former Japanese control, was divided at the 38th parallel for occupation purposes between the Americans and the Soviets. Although a Joint Commission was set up at the Moscow Council of Foreign Ministers, leaders in both zones were not happy with the division and the drive for unification was to figure strongly in the political programmes of Korean political parties who were split ideologically as well as geographically. In the North the Soviets, whose zone comprised only one-third of the population, initially permitted all political groupings but restricted movement across the border which would make the imposition of tighter controls easier if it was deemed necessary.In the South the American commander refused to cooperate with the self-proclaimed Korean People’s Republic and maintained the Japanese bureaucratic structure. By early 1946 when Allied relations began to deteriorate, non-communist elements in the North were purged. The Soviets supported Korea being placed under trusteeship but the Americans campaigned against it with non-communists in the South, and the Joint Commission, having failed to produce proposals for the unification of Korea, was suspended in May 1946.Political turmoil and Soviet–American disagreement was accompanied in 1946 by badeconomic conditions that produced riots and strikes in rural and urban areas in the South. There was support in Washington for building a non-communist coalition of moderates in the South but the man on the spot, General John Hodge, favoured the forces of the Right.
Polarization accompanied factionalism on the Korean peninsula with the communists in the North attempt-ing to build support in the South. Their leader, Kim Il Sung, was keen not only to reunite the peninsula but to end the splits in the North. An invasion was one way of doing this but its success proved to be more difficult than expected because of American interventionThe invasion was only launched because of Stalin’s change of mind in early 1950 andthe expectation that the US would not fight for Korea. Despite Soviet support in terms