Years of StalemateJuly 1951–July 1953
The ﬁrst twelve months of the Korean War (June 1950–June 1951)had been characterized by dramatic changes in the battlefront as theopposing armies swept up and down the length of the Korean peninsula.This war of movement virtually ended on 10 July 1951, when represen-tatives from the warring parties met in a restaurant in Kaesong to negoti-ate an end to the war. Although the two principal parties to the con-ﬂict—the governments of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea(North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (ROK or South Korea)—weremore than willing to ﬁght to the death, their chief patrons—the People’sRepublic of China and the Soviet Union on the one hand and the UnitedStates and the United Nations (UN) on the other—were not. Twelvemonths of bloody fighting had convinced Mao Tse-tung, Joseph V.Stalin, and Harry S. Truman that it was no longer in their respectivenational interests to try and win a total victory in Korea. The costs interms of men and materiel were too great, as were the risks that the con-ﬂict might escalate into a wider, global conﬂagration. Consequently,they compelled their respective Korean allies to accept truce talks as theprice for their continued military, economic, and diplomatic support.For the soldiers at the front and the people back home, the com-mencement of negotiations raised hopes that the war would soon be over,but such was not to be. While desirous of peace, neither side was willingto sacriﬁce core principles or objectives to obtain it. The task of ﬁndingcommon ground was further complicated by the Communists’ philoso-phy of regarding negotiations as war by other means. This tactic signiﬁ-cantly impeded the negotiations. And while the negotiators engaged inverbal combat around the conference table, the soldiers in the ﬁeld con-tinued to ﬁght and die—for two more long and tortuous years.
The advent of truce talks in July 1951 came on the heels of a suc-cessful United Nations offensive that had not only cleared most of SouthKorea of Communist forces but captured limited areas of North Koreaas well. By 10 July the front lines ran obliquely across the Korean penin-sula from the northeast to the southwest. In the east, UN lines anchoredon the Sea of Japan about midway between the North Korean towns of Kosong and Kansong. From there the front fell south to the“Punchbowl,” a large circular valley rimmed by jagged mountains,