The division of Korea began at the end of WWII when upon Japan's defeat it had to cede its colonies in Korea. It was agreed in 1945 that the United States would accept Japanese surrender south of the 38th parallel in Korea while the Soviet Union would accept troops surrender north of the parallel. 1 Thus, control of the Korean peninsula was divided between the two major world superpowers who quickly grew to be at odds. The elections planned to reunite the peninsula were blocked by the Soviet Union. As a result of Soviet support, Kim Il Sung became the leader of North Korea and American backed Syngman Rhee became the elected leader of South Korea. Despite the mutual interests of both leaders to reunite the peninsula, their ideological differences prevented unification.1 On June 25th, 1950, the Soviet supplied North Korean army fought their way into South Korea. Truman and the newly created United Nations denounced North Korea's actions as aggressive, drawing in the international community. In the speech below, Truman outlines the communist threat as one with intentions to proliferate and outlines American actions.
Primary Source Document - After North Korea's attack on South Korea, Truman addresses the Communist threat and United States intentions. (27 June 1950)
173. Statement by the President on the Situation in Korea June 27, 1950
IN KOREA the Government forces, which were armed to prevent border raids and to preserve internal security, were attacked by invading forces from North Korea. The Security Council of the United Nations called upon the invading troops to cease hostilities and to withdraw to the 38th parallel. This they have not done, but on the contrary have pressed the attack. The Security Council called upon all members of the United Nations to render every assistance to the United Nations in the execution of this resolution. In these circumstances I have ordered United States air and sea forces to give the Korean Government troops cover and support.
The attack upon Korea makes it plain beyond all doubt that communism has passed beyond the use of subversion to conquer independent nations and will now use armed invasion and war. It has defied the orders of the Security Council of the United Nations issued to preserve international peace and security. In these circumstances the occupation of Formosa by Communist forces would be a direct threat to the security of the Pacific area and to United States forces performing their lawful and necessary functions in that area.
Accordingly I have ordered the 7th Fleet to prevent any attack on Formosa. As a corollary of this action I am calling upon the Chinese Government on Formosa to cease all air and sea operations against the mainland. The 7th Fleet will see that this is done. The determination of the future status of Formosa must await the restoration of security in the Pacific, a peace settlement with Japan, or consideration by the United Nations.
I have also directed that United States Forces in the Philippines be strengthened and that military assistance to the Philippine Government be accelerated.
I have similarly directed acceleration in the furnishing of military assistance to the forces of France and the Associated States in Indochina and the dispatch of a military mission to provide dose working relations with those forces.
I know that all members of the United Nations will consider carefully the consequences of this latest aggression in Korea in defiance of the Charter of the United Nations. A return to the rule of force in international affairs would have far-reaching effects. The United States will continue to uphold the rule of law.
I have instructed Ambassador Austin, as the representative of the United States to the Security Council, to report these steps to the Council.
- According to his speech, how does Truman view this attack?
- According to his speech, what role does the United States play in this conflict? What does it seems Truman's plan is in regards to the American military?
- Compare the June speech with the December one below. How have Truman's ideas about American commitment changed?
- "The Korean War, 1950–1953." Milestones - Office of the Historian. U.S. Department of State, n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2015.
- "Statement by the President, Truman on Korea ," June 27, 1950, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Public Papers of the Presidents, Harry S. Truman, 1945-1953. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/116192