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3 (a) Why did the USA become involved in the Korean

War in 1950 and how did the war affect the USA’s
relations with the USSR and China?

• USA’s commitment to contain the spread of Communism

given in the
Truman Doctrine, 1947 became an important feature of foreign
Truman stated that the USA would help any country resisting
minorities” and “outside pressures”

• The USA had longstanding trade and commercial links with

China and
regarded China as vital to its interests in Asia. The USA had
$2 billion to help the Nationalists in the civil war. However, by
1949 Mao Ze Dong became leader of Communist China. China,
the most
populated country in the world had become Communist

• In 1949 the USSR developed its own atom bomb and the USA
was no
longer the only superpower. In February 1950 China and the
signed a Friendship Treaty. The loss of China confirmed the
USA’s worst
fears that Communism was about to overrun Asia. Truman was
criticised in the USA for being soft on Communism. There was a
that the loss of China was only the first stage in a Communist
takeover of
Asia. This belief was called the Domino Theory

• Korea became a very sensitive country in the Cold War as it

China and the USSR. In 1948 Korea was divided along Cold War
along the 38th Parallel. USSR and US troops moved out of their
respective areas. Both Korean leaders, Syngmann Rhee in
South Korea and Kim Il Sung in Communist North Korea were
with this arrangement and wanted to reunite all of Korea under
system of government. Thousands were killed in unofficial
between both armies. Then in June 1950 North Korea invaded
Korea and by September the South Korean army was pushed
into a small
area in the south called the Pusan Pocket

• The Korean War became a flash point in the Cold War. The
USA became
involved in the Korean War because the Truman Doctrine had
the USA’s role to contain the spread of Communism. The USA
entered the war because it feared that this invasion was part of
a Russian
and Chinese plan to make Asia Communist
• It was important in worsening relations between the USA,
and China. The USA used the United Nations as a front to
invade Korea
and prevent a Communist takeover. The United Nations was
by the USSR. A United Nations army was sent to Korea.
countries contributed but, over 90% of the 300,000 soldiers
sent to Korea
were American. The army was led by General McArthur who
took orders
from President Truman

• In 1949 the USSR developed its atom bomb. Stalin and the
USSR would
have benefited from a North Korean Communist victory. Stalin
was afraid of a nuclear war and only gave North Korea indirect
USSR military planners helped Kim Il Sung’s invasion plans.
supplied pilots and planes. The Russian pilots disguised their
role by
wearing Chinese uniforms and painting Chinese symbols on
their planes.

• The USSR and China feared that the USA would use the UN
army to
remove Communist control in North Korea and even China. The
landing in September 1950 was a very effective seaborne
and by October the North Korean army was pushed back over
the border.
The UN army went on the offensive and followed the policy of
roll back
and was soon at the Yalu River near the border with China

• China was afraid to risk open war with the USA which had a
bomb. It was clear that McArthur and Truman were following a
ambitious aim to roll back Communism from all of Korea. In
1950, 250 000 Chinese troops called “People’s Volunteers”
crossed into
North Korea. The USSR adopted a cautious approach as Stalin
did not
want to risk a nuclear war against the USSR. He encouraged
Mao Ze
Dong to resist but only gave China indirect help. The USSR
guns and planes and the Chinese pushed the UN army back
into South

• The USA underestimated the reaction of China. This led to a

fall out
between Truman and McArthur who wanted to risk war with
Truman was not prepared to risk a war with the USSR and
McArthur was dismissed in April 1951. Truman decided that
South Korea was sufficient. In July 1953 after two years of
offensives and counterattacks an armistice was signed at

Any other valid point

(b) Did the USA succeed in achieving its aims in Korea?
Explain your answer.

• The USA was successful in showing its commitment to contain

spread of Communism as outlined in the Truman Doctrine. The
used the UN as a front for involvement in Korea. By September
the army of Syngmann Rhee was on the verge of surrender.
The Inchon
landings in September forced the retreat of Kim Il Sung’s army
back to
North Korea. At the time of the armistice of 1953 the 38th
remained the border between North and South Korea. Thus the
involvement of the USA ensured the survival of South Korea as
non-Communist country

• The USA failed to achieve its more ambitious aim to roll back
Communism in Korea. The involvement of China showed the
risks of
this policy. McArthur was sacked for criticizing Truman’s more

• The USA saved South Korea at a cost. It was forced to triple

on the military. Over 30,000 American soldiers were killed in
the Korean
War. In total over two million Koreans were killed

• Relations between the USSR, China and the USA remained

very tense.
The USA refused to recognize Communist China; instead China
represented at the United Nations by the Nationalist-controlled
island of
Taiwan. The nuclear arms race increased as the Cold War
intensified in
the 1950s

• After the Korean War, the USA set up a network of anti-

alliances- to prevent the spread of Communism in Asia. SEATO
East Asia Treaty Organisation) was set up in 1954 and the
with Australia and New Zealand gave them USA protection