The War Without An End Begins:
At 4:40 AM on this date, North Korean forces crossed the 38th Parallel and attacked South Korea. That same day, with the Soviet Union boycotting the proceedings over the representation of China by the Chiang Kai-shek government on Taiwan, the United Nations Security Council unanimously condemned the invasion with UN Security Council Resolution 82. By the next day, North Korean tanks reached the outskirts of Seoul.
Kim Il Sung, the North Korean leader, intended to bring all of Korea under communist rule. He nearly succeeded. South Korean forces offered little resistance to the invading North Korean army. This was because beginning in early 1949, the U.S. had begun to disengage from Korea in every way. On January 12, Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson, just 9 days before he would become Secretary of State, told the National Press Club that South Korea was not a vital part of the U.S. defense perimeter in Asia. The withdrawal was completed by the end of June 1949, with only about 400 advisers left behind to assist the South Korean government in the development of its military capabilities. As nationalists, Kim Il-Sung and Syngman Rhee (the South Korean leader) each was determined to unify the Korean peninsula under his own ideology. Congress became nervous that if too much aid were given to South Korea, Rhee would use it to invade the North, so they had sent light arms and armor, but withheld tanks and aircraft. In January 1950, the U.S. House defeated the Korean Aid Bill by a single vote, thereby cutting off all aid to South Korea.
Even so, the North Korean invasion came as an alarming surprise to American officials. And as far as they were concerned, this was not simply a border dispute between two unstable dictatorships on the other side of the globe. Instead, many feared it was the first step in a Communist campaign to take over the world. For this reason, nonintervention was not considered an option by many top decision makers. (In fact, in April 1950, a top-secret National Security Council report known as NSC-68 had recommended that the United States use military force to “contain” Communist expansionism anywhere it seemed to be occurring, “regardless of the intrinsic strategic or economic value of the lands in question.”)
As American troops pushed the North Koreans out of Seoul and back to their side of the 38th parallel, and headed north toward the Yalu River, the border between North Korea and Communist China, the Chinese started to worry about protecting themselves from what they called “armed aggression against Chinese territory.” Chinese leader Mao Zedong (1893-1976) sent troops to aid North Korea and warned the United States to keep away from the Yalu boundary unless it wanted full-scale war.
An armistice signed on 27 July 1953 between the adversaries allowed POWs to choose whether or not to be repatriated; drew a new boundary near the 38th parallel that gave South Korea an extra 1,500 square miles of territory; and created a 2-mile-wide “demilitarized zone” that still exists to this day.
But for sixty years, North Korea and its ally, Communist China, promoted the outrageous fiction that the U.S. and South Korea started the war. The Chinese people were educated to believe that the war was initiated by the United States and South Korea, and not by a fraternal communist state in the north. In Chinese propaganda, the Chinese war effort was portrayed and accepted as an example of China’s engaging the strongest power in the world with an under-equipped army, forcing it to retreat, and fighting it to a military stalemate. These successes were contrasted with China’s historical humiliations by Japan and by Western powers over the previous hundred years in order to promote the image of the People’s Liberation Army and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Apparently, in 2010, Communist China finally rewrote its history of how the conflict began to point the finger of responsibility at North Korea. As reported by The Daily Telegraph on 25 June 2010:
Until now, the Chinese have staunchly supported their North Korean allies, along whose side they fought in the war.
China previously insisted that the war was waged out of American aggression. The official title of the conflict on the mainland is “The War to Resist America and Aid Korea”.
Chinese history textbooks state that the Korean War began when “the United States assembled a United Nations army of 15 countries and defiantly marched across the border and invaded North Korea, spreading the flames of war to our Yalu river.”
The official Chinese media stated for the first time that it was North Korea that dealt the first blow. In a special report, Xinhua’s International Affairs journal said: “On June 25, 1950, the North Korean army marched over 38th Parallel and started the attack. Three days later, Seoul fell.”
For a civil war that began in 1948 after two separate but hostile governments were established on the Korean Peninsula, and which escalated into an international war on June 25, 1950, who fired the first shot was not a decisive factor in determining the nature, process and outcome of the war. But in academic study, truth and facts should always be the key elements.
…It is high time to renew and strengthen efforts by Chinese scholars to discover the truth about the Korean War.
Significantly, the editors of the newspaper published an interview with Shen Zhihua [archived here], director of the Shanghai-based Center for Cold War International History Studies and a professor of history at East China Normal University, in which he stated:
In the past, the Soviets and North Korea blamed the “imperialist” US for launching the war. No one believes it now. South Korea, the US and some other countries, such as the UK and Australia, see the start of the war as North Korea’s moves against South Korea.
China doesn’t give a clear definition in textbooks, and just indicates that South Korea moved into North Korea in specific battles and supported the US army.
Kim Il-sung kept asking for Stalin and Mao Zedong’s approval to use force to take South Korea.
But at first both demurred Kim’s plan, as the Soviet Union didn’t want to aggravate tensions with the US, and China was concentrating on its own reunification. We can find evidence for this in the disclosed archive materials from former Soviet Union and China.
But in late January 1950, Stalin suddenly changed his mind and agreed to Kim’s plan to undertake military operations against South Korea.
He also called Kim to Moscow for secret talks. In the April talks, Stalin gave final approval to Kim’s plan to start the war.
Stalin agreed to Kim’s estimate that the US would decline to or not have enough time to intervene in the war.
But during the talks, Stalin repeatedly emphasized that Mao’s opinion on the plan must be solicited and the war could not be carried out without the [CCP]’s agreement…
…Mao had no choice but to agree to the common position of Moscow and Pyongyang, and said that if the US entered the war, China would send its own armies to assist North Korea…
Based on the above materials, the launching of the Korean War was originally Moscow’s and Pyongyang’s idea, but Stalin managed to foist responsibility on Mao.
Shen’s views essentially echo those of Western historians. [Although, despite the above developments, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China still maintains on their website, as of 25 June 2013, archived here, their bogus version of who started the Korean War.]
Meanwhile, North Korea continues promoting its own fictional view of the conflict. In two articles that appeared under the headline “U.S., Provoker of Korean War” [archived here and here], the country’s state news agency in 2010 accused Washington of starting the war with a surprise attack. “All the historical facts show that it is the US imperialists who unleashed the war in Korea and that the United States can never escape from the responsibility,” the Korean Central News Agency said.
- United States National Security Council. (7 April 1950) NSC 68: United States Objectives and Programs for National Security – A Report to the President Pursuant to the President’s Directive of January 31, 1950.