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Stalin and the origin of the Korean War: a reconsideration

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posted on 2023-08-30, 16:51 authored by Yun Young Kim
This thesis examines the origins of the Korean War by means of underused historical documents from the warring parties such as Russia, China, North Korea, and the US. The reason for having different views on the origin of the war on conventional scholarly works came from the lack of information due to the limits on the access towards it. With support of various documentations obtained by all warring parties in South Korea, this thesis contributes to some of the contrasting issues over the war. It argues that the key point to investigating Stalin’s policy is to link it chronologically with other important international events and understand how it related to the outbreak of the Korean War. Initially, Soviet occupation in the northern part of Korea in August 1945 had no clear plan, but gradually Stalin became suspicious of the US attitude towards Japan, which led him to secretly order the establishment of a Soviet-friendly regime in North Korea in September 1945. Nevertheless, Stalin did not show his intention to launch an attack against South Korea until the end of 1949. Instead, Stalin sought to deal with Korean issues within a cooperation framework with the US. In January 1950, however, Stalin sent a secret telegram to Kim to give a green light on his war plan. This thesis focuses on what changed Stalin’s policy towards Korea from a wider context and concludes that it was an international security environment in the Far East led Stalin to decide upon the Korean War. Washington introduced NSC 61 in January 1950 to revive Japan as an US ally, which included supporting South Korea as a main trading partner with Japan. Also, the US made a conciliatory approach towards Communist China by Truman’s statement not to involve in the Taiwan issue. In addition, Stalin became suspicious of Mao due to his request on amending the Sino-Soviet Treaty and his approach to the US for economic aids to China. These circumstances were certainly challenging for Stalin, and led to decide to approve Kim’s war plan with the condition of Chinese involvement. During the process of the war, there were ongoing disagreements among Stalin, Mao, and Kim over the issues on the amount of military supply, air cover, military strategy, the armistice, and so on. This is because Stalin’s aim in the war was not to win to expand communism but prolong it to weaken the US not enough to launch a Third World War in the near future.



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