Page 1

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No. 5 Korea

Foreignand Commonwealth 0,jfice

April 1992

Foreign & Commonwealth





April 1992


Papers presented at the Seminar held by the Editors of Documents on British Policy Office, on 8 January 1992 Overseas,in the Foreign and Commonwealth Page 3

Foreword Korea and the politics Britain, Heather Yasamee

of power

by proxy 4-21


Sir James Cable


in Korean influence British the political General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley factor The MacArthur War, 1950-1 Korean Dr Peter Lowe

Command Richard Concluding Note

in British

28-31 towards

the 32-35

and co-ordination




UN forces of

in Korea 36-41



Contributors on





Copies of this pamphlet

in and preparation

deposited be National the will with

FCO Historical Branch, Library and Records Department,



Cornwall House, Stamford Street, London SEI 9NS Crown Copyright








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The two latest volumes in the series Documentson British Policy Overseaswere the basis Office 8 Commonwealth held in Foreign discussion the on and of at a seminar January 1992. The morning sessions were devoted to a volume on Eastern Europe 1945-6 and are Occasional issue Papers This issue (No. 4) in of this series. published a separate discussing Korea the the afternoon sessions volume on contains the proceedings of 1950-1.

The two main papers by the Editor of the Korean volume, Heather Yasamee, and Sir James Cable were followed by comments from General Sir Anthony FarrarHockley and Dr Peter Lowe. The points raised in the ensuing debate form the basis In is item implications the the there of the conclusions. addition on of an extra Korean crisis for the UN. I should like to thank the outside participants, in took the seminar officials who part

the FCO's Historians

and the other

Richard Bone Library and Records Department April 1992








in Global


`The vital mistake we made was in entering upon this commitment unpreparedand unmobilisedfor the job. The United Nations had no forces available. It thereforebecameall along a big bluf MacArdua, 23



lack 1950 in December When General MacArthur that owing to the of complained 1 he for big bluff' `one in Korea had been intervention forces UN was once all along Staff Chiefs British language in but the of what merely stating plain exaggerating, not the had been saying for years. Even in Western Europe, the top defence priority, Chiefs of Staff had long admitted that `Western military weakness as a whole is now Atlantic Russia from to the the purely military point of view, could march such that, 2 East in Far How the the the then which case much moment'. worse any was at Chiefs of Staff considered to be the most serious gap in the Cold War front but full in did importance, the event of they said, scale not rate reinforcement whose war. One of the consequences of the Korean War was a greater appreciation of the Far East: Allied forces became importance the there a stated aim of reinforcing of British defence policy and global strategy in 1951. In their 1950 report, 2 written on War, Chiefs Staff Korean defined Cold War the the the the eve of of as a struggle Soviet is Russian The `quite a aim they said was clear-it communism. against in dominated by be Moscow'. The Western this to stop aim should communist world by halting further by long in term the short term the any spread of communism and freedom for Union Soviet the the the satellite states and achieving withdrawal of The Chiefs of Staff saw the problem behind its own frontiers. as a global one even the requiring global solutions at a time when none of the western powers-not fight have United States (despite atomic superiority)-was to the capability said to the Soviet Union alone, should it decide to turn the Cold War into a Hot one.

The key to dealing with the threat posed by the Soviet Union was seen to lie in In between the western powers. ever closer collaboration and coordination of effort

I Documents on British Policy Overseas(hereafter cited as DBPO), Series II, Volume IV, Korea 1950-1 (HMSO, 1991), No. 97: MacArthur to Bouchier, 23 Dec. 1950. 2 Ibid, Appendix I: Chiefs Staff's May June The 1951 1950. text their of of report on global strategy, report is reproduced on microfiches as the calendar to Appendix I.


Chiefs Stocktaking 1945 Sargent's Orme the Sir paper, of terms reminiscent British in it `Today terms Staff strategy of to think no sense that makes spelt out of Full individual European Western and independent. something as strategy or 2 ' is in States United vital. policy and method with the collaboration famous

designed joint By collaboration to translate the paper plans of a action they meant NATO's into Atlantic to extend men, money and equipment and pact still embryonic importance The for Pacific. by attached the twin organisation the of a creation reach Cold War in building taking a of more areas and vital to of strength positions up if down back Russians from derived the that the would assumption offensive confronted. Soviet policy was reckoned to be fundamentally Although aggressive and always Russians Chiefs Staff looking the thought were of to exploit weakness, the force' and would always draw back when `essentially realists' who `understood 4 Berlin 'The determined was experience of and superior opposition. confronted with frequently cited as an example of this). According to the Chiefs of Staff the Soviet Union would not risk war until its defences were prepared (probably not until 1954). This was why it would not march to the Atlantic even though there were no western forces to stop it, since such a move could result in war with the United States and Atlantica" bomb. In form "Tax `the in rests the other words of the atomic retribution Pax Britannica in 19th the today on the atomic weapon as the century on the rested British Fleet'. 2 That having been said the Chiefs were quick to make the obvious Russians deterrent long bomb as the was only effective as a as point that the believed that the West would in fact use it. The Chiefs of Staffs analysis of Soviet intentions produced the conclusion that the West ought to start taking the offensive in the Cold War, since failure to do so increased military difficulties and commitments. Britain's lack of resources to meet led in definition defence to a more rigorous priorities which existing commitments of defend Western Europe Britain to the only really vital areas. would attempt Middle East Far Last in the trailing top the the as accordingly replaced priority with it Far East though that the third place--even the was recognised of all was areas forward to the most vulnerable a communist move. in Asian Far China Fast divided nor solidarity existed a over and faced the twin challenge of communism where the old colonial powers and antiimperialism. (Sir Stafford Cripps was later to remark that western difficulties in the



3 DBPO, Series 1, Volume I, Tit Conference Potsdam1945 (HMSO, 1984), No. 102: Sargent at memo. on `Stocktaking after VE-Day', II July 1945. 4 DBPO, Series II, Volume IV, No. 104.i: F.O. `Russian on strategic intentions and the threat to peace', Dec. 1950; cf also Appendix 1, global strategy, para. 11.


Far East owed much to the failure to come to terms with the newly emerging sense is `communism less to that there and appreciate much offensive to the of nationalism Asiatics than colonialism'5 ). The defeat of Japan had left a power vacuum in the Far East which five years of US drift in the Pacific had done nothing to fill. French difficulties in Indo-China, the British struggle in Malaya, and absence of any strong in Siam Burma danger just that or or stable government were all seen as signs one lead Asia falling into Communist to the push could more communist rice-bowl of hands and dealing a terrific blow to the Allied economy-particularly that of the Commonwealth. Nonetheless the Far East was not considered as vital to the survival Western Europe Middle East the of western civilisation as either or and defend be it in In to the consequently no reinforcements should spared event of war. Chiefs Staff Korea, the a report which made no mention of of suggested that the be to achieve some unified policy to clear up the Far East and liberate aim should forces tied up in the jungles of Indo-China for defence Malaya the of more vital and Europe. areas such as

The key here as in all things was to draw in the United States: in particular to get it to take responsibility for Pacific defence. In other words, to paraphrase Orme Sargent once again, to influence the US to use its power on British behalf: a policy described by David Reynolds as power by proxy. 6 recently The Chiefs of Staff's report by defence Ministers future for basis the was accepted as planning and action. On 20 June the Prime Minister approved a text for issue to the United States and older Commonwealth Korean Five days later North governments. forces swept into South Korea and for the next three years western resources were into defending poured a country which all were agreed was not in itself of any importance. strategic

The implications

Korea of

for British



`The main issues are. (a) whether the invasion of South Korea can be stopped; (b) what action it is possiblefor the Security Council to take (c) repercussions elsewhere'

Dixon, 26 Juni 19507

Sir Pierson Dixon's early reaction was the first of a series of assessments in the Foreign Office in which the main questions asked were:

Ibid., No. 22. i: minute by Cripps, 30 July 1950; cf also No. 33. i for remarks by Roberts, 5 Aug. 1950. 6D Reynolds, Britannia Overruled:British Policy World Power in the Twentieth Century (London, 1991), and p. 296. ' DBPO, Series II, Volume IV, No. 2-ii: Dixon memo., 26 June 1950. (Dixon's prescient assessment led directly to the drafting of No. 19 on the implications of the situation in Korea for British foreign policy).


What was the Soviet Union

up to and why? -and

fit China in? did where

diverting Korea in without How to roll back communism on the march interests? defence British from forces to vital more areas pressed


UN in hold solidarity, Would the Korean glue the paper over the cracks China? by it a split over as was


how Korea-in the to restrain How to confine the conflict to particular China limited the to from threatening use Americans or with war embarking on bomb? atomic knock-on be Even if the fighting remained localised in Korea-what the would East Far Hong Kong Indo-China, Malaya, in the Japan, the of rest and effects S. Asia? E. and If fighting failed what were the prospects of reaching a diplomatic settlement as long as the United States refused to pay the asking price of a seat in the UN for China and an end to support for the Nationalist regime in Formosa? last, but not least, what sort of settlement was the UN fighting for? A free Either Korea? that a was way to the a and or ante united status quo return it, Chinese for UN the the to extent the some as and should or question Koreans insisted, be left to the Korean people themselves to decide?


Of course the Foreign Office by itself did not have the answer to all these questions but it did its best to find a way through, driven by ministerial concerns to settle for leaving behind the minimum Korea quickly and withdraw the commitment minimum time. Information `Communications

lillie in disorder are ...

is known

and consultation of what

is going on'

Gascoignc (! okyo),, 7uly 19508

A point to consider when trying to assess how well the Foreign O(lice dealt with is how little direct information British hard insoluble questions or some of these Soviet it With had the to go on. government saying next to nothing was officials February 1951 before Stalin made any public reference to the Korean War9 -and Chinese Korean North leaders, British direct dialogue or officials could often with no do little more than guess at Sino-Soviet motives and intentions. This was even more 8 Ibid., No. 12, Gascoigne (Tokyo), July 1950. 7: note 9 Ibid., No. 130, foreign Stalin's The 6: the timing note significance of of policy was statement on briefly raised in seminar discussion on 8 January 1992. In 1951 the Foreign (Alice view on significance had more to do with an imminent World Peace Council meeting in Berlin and elections in Russia than developments in Korea.


true when it came to knowing what was happening on the ground in Korea. One of features is how Ministers British the remarkable the the were of early phase of war basis decisions far-reaching take to the quick required of very consequences on with little direct information. There was no warning imminent the of of outbreak hostilities. After the event surprised officials commented full from last the on report Seoul, written 22 June, it interest because it `of that precisely on contains was 10 practically nothing'. The first news of what was happening in Korea came from American, UN and press from After last Seoul June by 28 the transmission the telegram sources. of on Captain Vyvyan Holt, who was captured shortly afterwards, the Foreign Office had direct link Korea Sawbridge's Henry itinerant in to the the no arrival of until mission July. Like UN in Korea, Britain the to middle of other contributing countries effort dependent for information American briefings the was very on regular given to Ambassadors in Washington and on press reports. In London, the American Embassy behind fast its best keep Foreign the to occasionally the pace of events-did -itself Office informed in the early stages. The appointment Air Vice-Marshal Bouchier of Officer British Liaison MacArthur in August was designed to fill the as with but, information Bouchier became so captivated by General gap unfortunately, MacArthur that the Chiefs of Staff soon complained that his reports gave little more than a MacArthur-view of the situation in Korea. As for

British by its American the consultation, government was not consulted first in hours the thirty-six partner of the war when the key decisions of American intervention in Korea, neutralisation Formosa for Indo-China of and reinforcements State Department taken-an later omission were which officials were at pains to l l for. This apologise set a pattern which ran throughout the course of the war---offset to some extent by the excellent personal relationship between the which existed British Ambassador, Sir Oliver Franks, and Dean Acheson, the American Secretary State. of


Korean the of


`Mr Gromyko said... that the hostilities had been `provoked' by South Korea: To knew I there that my comment was a difference of opinion, he said it was a difference of nature not of opinion' Kelly (Moscow), 11 July 195012


to the main questions preoccupying British policy-makers, it may be significant that the one question scarcely considered was whether the Korean War 10 Ibid., No. 6, Scott 2: note minute,

25 June


11 Ibid., No. 3, note 11: Kennan and Perkins to Franks, 27 June 1950. 12 Ibid., No. 16: Kelly (Moscow), 11 July 1950.


from British Tentative internal be in suggestions affair. purely a origin might not Kim Il Korean North Peking of in Tokyo government the that and representatives in fighting, discounted resumed Sung might be acting on its own initiative were as bear began day, the lull to all the second on earnest after an unaccountable Soviet by trained and hallmarks well-executed operation planned of a carefully South Korean North Similarly forces. that the Korean North charges equipped Koreans had started the war were dismissed as propaganda. Soviet


he States, but United in Stalin involve Tung Tse the `It was possible that Mao war with wanted to try to July 195013 Berne 12 Attlee, Stalin to this' thought that would get out of forces Democratic in had Soviet Union the `Without moving a single man, the succeeded embroiling Attleeto Bevin,2 Dec.195014 increasinglyin the Far East. This was a trap into which we must not fall China-of later Union--or the not to accuse publicly concerned both down), leave fear (for them with no way to climb privately this would aggression Soviet `virtually involvement Ministers British that was were agreed and officials increasingly involvement became degree developed As the a the war of this certain'.? British Early for the the with of analyses concurred situation speculation. matter Soviet George Kennan by American that the an was making government view given Soviet






a soft target which would stop short of general war. Soviet Korea, in `walk-over' the the that without expected reckoned was quickly 15 it Korean `keep mess', was out of the would accept the setback and government involving by Soviet indirect feared intervention turn to that policy could either still Yugoslavia by in incident Chinese Korea Berlin, the or staging a major elsewhere Iran or




the most likely


in October the Foreign Office became more doubtful as Chinese intervention On balance Soviet Union China Korea. in to whether or the was the prime mover Sino-Soviet Ministers to that assume although continued policies were closely Soviet Ministers Union At time the the same was pulling all strings. aligned, the Soviet American China but the to that a challenge view continued was nothing from Moscow. Indeed Office Foreign taking orders officials on at one point satellite, been Soviet have leadership the the Russia Committee wondered whether might but Chinese intervention, it by headstrong against was obliged to go along with a China which Ernest Bevin thought in 1950 had `overweening self-confidence' in its 16 own powers.


13 Ibid., No. 18: Bevin to Attlee, 12 July 1950. 14 Ibid., No. 85: Attlee to Pleven, 2 Dec. 1950. 15 Ibid., No. 12: Gascoigne (Tokyo) to Dening, 5 JWy 1950. 16 Ibid., No. 73: Bevin, CP(50)267,10 Nov. 1950.


What lay behind the Korean War, whether Soviet, Chinese or even North Korean inspired, remained obscure. The Foreign Office could find no answer to the question Soviet have Union in June 1950 to take to the they asked as should attempted why if left have been by force an area of little strategic importance which alone might had drawn to the Soviet orbit in a few years in the same way as Czechoslovakia been. Apart from Sir Alvary Gascoigne's view from Tokyo that Korea had been a have Russia last the gained remaining nonsitting rabbit whose seizure would Asia, North the territory that the mainland on of no one thought communist Korea Gascoigne's deputy, the the primary object of exercise. was own acquisition of Asian George Glutton, thought it could be a way of demonstrating to non-communist US defending UN four After that the the them. neither nor was capable of countries Cold Korean War had bit into War `a `bluff', the the the added of real stuff' years of for Soviet Germany) fresh initiative (possibly the to make a a new on preparing way 17 in international affairs. start Soviet reactions to events in Korea were consistently low key. Neither British peace feelers in Moscow in July nor the surprise Soviet return to the UN in August 1950 Soviet light intentions Foreign involvement-tending on to confirm a shed any real or Office view that `It is always next to impossible to foretell what the Russians will do 18 do it. ' they or why will China `China needed at least 20 years of peace to in her house had set order and no warlike further tolerate not any extension of American aggression in Korea'

intentions but she could

Chouen1* 21 Sept 195019 When


Despite to assess Chinese motives, officials were equally uncertain. from Peking intervention the clear warnings intelligence of at the and reports beginning October 20 `bumper bumper' Chinese Korea, into of to of convoys moving Ernest Bevin maintained right up until the last moment that the that he doubted Chinese would think it in their interests to intervene. trying

On the basis of very little information about the new China and its leaders, Bevin talked about China's national interests and Chou en Lai's sense of statesmanship, Foreign Office remained divided as to the nature of Communist China and the while West. As Sir Pierson Dixon was to the prospects for an accommodation the with lament `We have a number of people who understand China and a number of Communism, but is people who understand what we want somebody or preferably a 17 Ibid., No. 12, note 2: Glutton (Tokyo), 4 July 1950. 18 Ibid., No. 30, Noble, July 1950. 4: note 19 Ibid., No. 53: Chou Lai, Sept. 21 1950. en 20 Ibid., No. 62, Scott 3: note minute, 4 Oct. 1950.


Bevin Meanwhile '21 Chinese as was to communism. group of experts who understand is in Korea. ' intervened have Chinese know in November `Only the why they say Reactions

Response and

`In view of the happenings in Korea the inhabitants [of German border towns] fear quite suddenly they will find Russian tanks rolling westwards through their towns' Adenauer, July 195022

Whatever the motives for the attack on South Korea, there was general consensus that if left unchecked it would trigger a chain reaction through the Far East and South East Asia right round to Europe, where Bevin feared that `next year the Soviet Government in Germany have done in will seek to repeat what they Korea'. 23 Reflecting Far East in their own particular the the areas of concern Americans spoke about repercussions in Japan, Formosa and the Philippines whereas British eyes focused on the vulnerability Indo-China, Malaya, Hong Kong of and Burma. The British Cabinet therefore agreed `at once' to rally to the US-lcd call for 24 in Korea banner. UN British in the the assistance under support was readily given hope that this would be more moral than actual and that the deployment few of a Cabinet Later the naval vessels would suffice. was prepared to take the political decision-against to send land forces to Korea even though this military advice battalions from Hong Kong. meant removing American



`The American people are not happy if theyfeel alone'

Frank, 23,7uty 195025


decisions to send land forces were taken in response to from the clear signals American Administration Anglothat a negative response would adversely all-(-(-t American Advice from Sir Oliver Franks in Washington relations. played a significant in decision. Franks in heavily land this part weighed the on side of making a Anglo-American American that the contribution arguing the relationship rested on `we dependable 25 Franks went on to that the assumption are only ally and partner'. Americans in for their partner that the say when are a tough spot they look round decision in impair that long the case of Korea would `seriously and a negative the 21 Ibid., No. 123, note 1: Dixon minute, 31 Jan. 1951.

22 Ibid., No. 8, note 5: Adenauer,,July 1950.

23 DBPO, Series 11, Volume III, GermanReannwnent 1950 (IIMSO, Aug. 1950. 24 DBPO, Series II, Volume IV, No. 2.i: Cabinet, 27 June 1950. 25 Ibid., No. 25: Franks to Younger, Attlee in similar vein.

23 July

1989), No. 3.1: Bcvin, 1)()(50)66,29

1950; cf. also No. 21, note 7 for Franks to Strang


lead British follow likely Furthermore and to a term relationship'. many nations were long in key Americans Franks asserted that the to a situation which a saw this as the UN for difficult as regarded was cover which now anticipated and campaign was and essential. Asian



`Though Korea became a world situation Asian situation'

because of American action, in Asian

it remains primarily eyes


Dening, 22 Jan. 195126

At the same time following the Americans into Korea was not simply the act of a lieutenant. As far as Britain was concerned it was also a case loyal or unquestioning in helping to settle a conflict which threatened the stability of a much wider area of British It its had Britain was also an area which own obligations to consider. which American in their tended to think they understood a way which policy-makers It behind imperial them-did was not. experience no century of colleagues-with UN holding in important had Britain the to role play therefore assumed that an Americans by those to take the the of views together more notice of getting alliance feel US India-which Asian countries-particularly to that the came was trying to determine the future of Asia without taking the views of that region into account. Asian views were basically governed by the plain fact that China was too close and be In kind trying to to terms too powerful on some not a neighbour of with. Americans, into Britain fell to the the role of often represent this point of view for instance, In 1950, the summer of uneasy and not altogether effective mediator. Ministers British about a possible armed clash over were more worried when Formosa than the actual conflict in Korea, British concern to represent the point of form American by Asia Adminstration the the took of annoying repeatedly view of fight for it it Korea it had in the that telling a same sort of support as would not get it Chinese Formosa. In in Korea China intervention the end rather was over with heat British issue. Formosan the took than the representations which out of Collective


both our countries are firmly convinced of the need for an effective system of collective defence against Nations in Kingdom ful United desirability United doubt, the the trying the to of of aggression, we are make it Atlantic Pact' by this prefer to the the and see realised machinery of undertake `While

Younger, 31 March 195127

The early British decisions to send forces to Korea were also to some extent by idea Britain in the that this the conduct of governed some say would give Chiefs The Staff by Korea tried therefore to use the opportunity of operations. of 26 Ibid., No. 14, Dening, 6: 22 Jan. 1951. note

27 Ibid., No. 137: Younger to Jebb, 31 March 1951.


just in Korea Anglo-American not planning for military of closer coordination pressing American informal but on a global scale. A series of consultative meetings produced British if was strategy which global the of practice the not principles agreement to American bellicose policy line in the more the of principles with after all closely 28 However, less drafted been time. had the 68 NSC same at or more which paper for hoped if the to disappointed structured Staff Chiefs return a they the were of Ministers Staff Chiefs Combined and organisation of the old wartime closeness of Nations United the than American by dismayed rather the to use plans were Atlantic Alliance as a means of providing for collective security. included NationsUnited for Peace' for `Uniting American at the -which plans Assembly General Council Security from and creating to the the transferring power find lest `we British force UN kind the might worried peace-keeping of some to to go war on morally committed, or even pressure, ourselves under very strong its had been before behalf of other member states merits, time to consider, on there 29 Bevin's Typically, had to this solution proposed that arisen'. the actual situation Anglo-American to categories as which arrangement to to to try prior some come was intervene. UN in should or should not which places the of aggression and for Peace at the UN British objections was the concern that Uniting Underlying American NATO be taking about rhetoric and also at the expense of would British diminish face decision-sharing the circle would widening at value-that influence.

The limits

influence of

`Thu United States was a young country and the Administration We had made it our business to by to restrain them'

was only too apt to take unreflecting plunges. 13evmco Nehru, Ian 195/30 ,

hand on In regard to Korea the effectiveness of British influence as a restraining American policy was limited not merely because of America's determination to go its because Ernest Bevin but the of reluctance on more than one of also own way I let gain. am military prudence prevail over the chance of political occasion to 28 NSC 68 is Relations States, United Foreign in 1977), p. 1950 Volume I (Washington, the printed of drafting 234. The question of whether there was any Anglo-American the consultation over of either discussion January in 8 have The 1992. Editors on not come across any paper was considered seminar direct link but think it likely that there would have been some informal soundings, especially in view of the easy relations between General Bradley (Chairman of the JCS) and Lord Tedder (I lead of 13JSNI, , Washington).

29 DBPO, Series II, Volume IV, No. 63. i: Bevin, 28 Sept_ 1950. 30 Ibid., No. 104, Jan. Nehru, 1951. 5: Bevin to note


Staffs in Chiefs here heed Bevin's thinking to the particular of of refusal to pay 38th October. in Bevin the actively supported the parallel warnings against crossing decision to go north and persuaded more reluctant Cabinet colleagues to take the Chinese basis intervene, the that the that this might gain them a would not risk on free and united Korea (the resolution based drive the on a sanctioning north was British draft). Bevin was persuaded to ask for a delay between the passing of this for It the the the effectiveness of crossing of resolution and parallel. speaks volumes British influence that despite an assurance of a delay being readily given the two 31 day. events took place on the same



`Our principal djcully,

however,is General MacArthur'

Morrison,9 April 195132

The problem of influencing American strategy was partly of course the problem of General MacArthur: for further Peter Lowe's contribution controlling which see on 31-34. British MacArthur he in fact to concern that pp. control and make sure as was in United Nations33 highlights the the agent of the problem of control name well as in force different have a multi-national and command when contributing governments Commonwealth British and objectives. objectives were to bring the fighting to an end China MacArthur's to some settlement and come with whereas objective was being China downfall the to of an suspected extension of the war and of the Communist there-whether this was also the American Administration's government became objective a point of real concern: clearly there was a strong lobby within it for such a course and by the time of MacArthur's dismissal, British officials had begun irrelevant to recognise that the personal issue of MacArthur to the policy was almost battle going on in Washington. How far Britain influenced the outcome of this policy battle is impossible to say. In States was prepared the end the United to settle for stalemate rather than, as MacArthur have it, to take the wraps off-to would clear up Korea and bomb China. How much this had to do with listening to Britain had to say on the what is little if subject another matter--perhaps the outcome of the Attlee-Truman very talks in Washington are anything to go by.

31 i.

Oct. 9 1950: see Volume IV, No. 64, note 8. e. 32 Ibid., No. 141: Morrison to Franks, 9 April 1951. 33 Ibid., No. 77: Bevin to Franks, 22 Nov. 1950.


Mr Atomic



to Washington


`President Truman said today that the use of the atomic bomb was under active consideration' liess Tape, 30 Nov. 1950M

home by being hopes forces UN troops At the end of November the rout of of ended 35 facing had to admit `we are now Christmas and MacArthur an entirely new war'. At this critical point, concern about American intentions and strategy in Korea was intensified by President Truman's ambiguous remarks about the use of the atomic bomb. These remarks were clarified well before Mr Attlee set off for Washington Attlee (who bomb discussion was only one of a number of subjects which and of the discuss. August) Truman had been trying to arrange a meeting with wished to since President Truman told Attlee that he had never had any intention of in bomb he He Korea. in bomb a sense, as, regarded the said that using the atomic Canada States, United Kingdom United joint and gave an and a possession of the its he use without prior consultation of the other assurance that would not authorise in two governments, save an extreme emergency such as an atomic attack on the United States. 36 In Washington

Subsequent American attempts at retraction were countered with some ingenuity by from the British officials and the end result was an oral and personal undertaking President to consult and a written statement in the official communique which spoke The informing. in to consult was given undertaking only of private conversation between President Truman and Attlee on 7 December and then announced in full following fifth into immediately It the meeting. session of the was accordingly written his British record of that meeting despite President Truman's that stipulation depend on no written agreement (`If a man's word wasn't any assurance should 37 better by Attlee it down'). made any said--`it wasn't accepted good'-he writing that this assurance was personal to President Truman and valid only so long as he Under keen in State Acheson, in the the office. eye of remained officials Department by that the to maintained assurance the consult was superseded in inform They the to therefore refused to accept a copy of communique. agreement files for American included British On the the President's record which assurance. his return to London Attlee told the Cabinet that `President Truman had entirely 36 him bomb'. On learning the details of what the the satisfied about atomic use of had transpired Bevin, who had regretted President the `boomerang' effect of 34 Ibid., No. 81: for Nov. Attlee, 30 1950. note

35 Ibid., No. 79, No. 14,28 rote 3: MacArthur communique 36 Ibid., No. 99, Cabinet, Attlee 3: 12 Dec. 1950. to note

37 Ibid., No. 90, note 7: Truman to Attlee, 7 Dec. 1950.




`From less that public original remarks, was rather convinced, pointing out just from leave does in future, that of action the where us not this point of view or Certainly it did American '38 and consideration not prevent regular we are now? bomb the throughout the rest of the war. threats of using atomic


US and China `If we cannot effectively change American Far Eastern policy, then we must, it seems to me, resign ourselves to a role of counsellor and moderator'

Dixon,28 Jan. 195139 The most difficult and, from the British point of view, least satisfactory parts of the discussions were those that related to American intentions and strategy Washington in Korea. Attlee's main objective was to gain some assurance that the Americans find in Korea fight it to out with no spill-over, and at the same time would try would for On did basis he a negotiated settlement. neither point receive satisfaction. some Although both Truman and Acheson assured him that they wished to avoid war with China and to come to some kind of terms, it soon became clear that Acheson at difficulties his least, who then had political to the of own, was not reconciled These this might make possible. concessions were a seat at the concessions which UN for China and the promise of the return of Formosa. In this regard, neither Attlee nor his officials made any impression on the American China was view that little beyond Soviet Nevertheless the than they pale and more a already satellite. for little deeply just how to a settlement with or no appreciation work continued of divided the United States and China had become. In September 1950 Bevin, encouraged by Sir Gladwyn Jcbb, had thought it possible few down from that the American Administration was only a months away climbing China--by April 1951 forecast this to over was extended a of two to three years. The British analysis recognised that bringing the Americans round was going to be an it did in China long to that and was realistic enough up-hill struggle the term accept friendship West break it just it the not want with and would probably as would with break in Soviet Union. In time the also the short term there was some with China be West. that to to might optimism the come willing some modus vivendi with China occasionally Certainly British (Chinese this showed signs of reactions to the buffer zone proposals may be a case in point). 40 Where the British analysis perhaps fell down was in its lack of any sense of the intensity of Sino-American hostility which led China to call America her public enemy No. 1,16 and her keep to which was from taking a rightful seat at the UN for more than twenty years.

38 Ibid., No. 111, Bevin 2: note minute. 39 Ibid., No. 121: Dixon minute, 28 Jan. 1951. 40 Cf. Ibid., Nos. 74-5 for this activity in November



for Attlee's Acheson In December representations countered and be US by China that public opinion would warnings some softening of policy towards be East Far in display by disillusioned that the support would not of weakness any so for The American in Europe. for building forthcoming plan up a position of strength between `middle Far East might action which course'41 the was to try some This Chinese. to the amounted with negotiation a major war and precipitate harrassment of China (eg by sanctions and subversive activity, which Attlee declared later lead but to an or sooner would and which policy was nothing a makeshift `limited The to tend would warfare over whether arguments outright shooting war. Mr Attlee China deal become unlimited' how to remained unresolved. with and by British been had Americans in representations: thought that shaken the end the from London Dixon, Sir Pierson by that the who observed an optimism not shared Washington `without solution of the cardinal any satisfactory talks were ending 42 East'. Far question of policy towards the 1950 Truman

Results of Washington


`Throughout these talks, the United Kingdom was lifted out of "the European queue-," Allee, IO Ike. 195043

in Korea, Attlee some received continuing unease about operations hands in Korea in the the of war reassurance that the conduct of was not entirely General MacArthur, Acheson did `whether although at one point wonder any General desired had MacArthur, he to government any control over a point on which 44 Closer liaison Attlee the satisfaction that promised express no view'. was affording Britain was being treated as a partner `unequal no doubt in power but still equal in 43 counsel'.


On other matters Attlee declared himself `well content' with the results of the Washington included defence discussions talks, which eventually successful on On in Europe. December he Cabinet he had `persuaded told the that measures i8 Atlantic the Americans to accept Anglo-American the partnership as mainspring of defence'. 45 He was especially pleased with indications States United the that thought that Britain was her principal ally because, as Truman had said, in the last be Britain fight. In his assessment of the Washington to resort only could relied upon talks, Franks agreed that the old wartime partnership was reviving, but warned that the United States might now expect rather more from the United Kingdom.

41 Ibid., No. 87: Franks conversation with Acheson, 4 Dec. 1950. 42 Ibid., No. 90: Attlee at 5th meeting 7 Dec. 1950, note 8 for Dixon 43 Ibid., No. 93: Attlee to Bevin, 10 Dec. 1950. 44 Ibid., No. 90, Acheson Attlee, 6: 7 Dec. 1950. to note

Dec. 8 1950. minute of

45 DBPO, Series II, Volume III, No. 143: Attlee to Cabinet, 18 Dec. 1950.


Anglo-American Washington in Attlee's terms of visit to value of debate historians, tend now most to although much among attract continues 46 documents British has The been its probably overrated. that significance little more than this conclusion about a meeting whose main outcome was in How much weight this carried sensitivity to each other's point of view. UN by American judged be resolution plans to press on with a terms may in Attlee China the very day after Attlee left Washington, protested which 47 been had `hard to reconcile with my understanding' agreed. of what


UN Resolution


relations to agree support a greater practical against vain was


Soviet bloc Power in be the than the `Do we really want to risk a position other only almost which we might ' giving an adverse vote? Slang, 25 Jan. 195148

January, battle with over this resolution which raged throughout subsequent Anglo-American Ministerial telling case study of resignations, provides a threats of Britain described have Historians this as a moment when relations of the period. last back draw in brink the to the at the to only relationship severing special went Office Cabinet between 49 battle Foreign internal The those the and within moment. dependence States disliked United like Kenneth Younger, the on and those who had no choice, is revealing. The final like Ernest Bevin, who accepted Britain Sir by Pierson Dixon for British policy-makers as expressed was that when conclusion States had influence been United `we British limits to reached must allow the the of follow, break least however lead them' or at not wrong-headed with and take the 39 States based United I)ixon these remarks on the premise that the was the poll(-y. British in Far East dependent the support on and was not therefore susceptible not been degree. have influence Dixon British over policies there to any great may to but US influence I it is entirely true to say that the wonder whether right about the had no need of British support. If this was the case why should the American hard Administration to carry Britain along with them over the resolution-try so displaying the concessions along way and an uncharacteristic making a number of patience with their reluctant ally.


46 Cf. Rosemary Foot's article on the Historiography No. 3, Summer 1991. 47 DBPO, Series 11, Volume 48 Ibid., No.

IV, No. 92: Attlee to Bevin, 117: Strang to Younger, 25 Jan. 1951. ,

49 Callum MacDonald,

Korean History, 15, in Diplomatic the of vol. war 10 Dec. 1950.

Britain and the Korean War (London, 1990), eg p. 52.



Pacific and


f Japan will determine whether in the future she is with us or against us' `The treatment o, Btvin, 30 Aug. 195050

Americans in important Korea, I the to think, clearly support was, the same cannot be said of policy in Japan, where the knock-on effects of Korea The in Korean Boom treaty. peace and a non-restrictive resulted an economic for Japan drift, American towards treaty after months of sudden a quick peace move in which it seemed to Bevin that the Americans had no clear idea as to the direction direct in Korea. At heading, they were consequence of events a time when was a things were going badly for the UN in Korea, the Americans at the end of 1950 became suddenly concerned to come to terms with Japan before its bargaining hand became unduly strong. Hand in hand with discussions for a Japanese peace treaty, inevitably Japanese the which raised spectre of rearmament, went discussions about a defence pact in the Pacific. Although fitted in to the Chiefs of this development Staffs global strategic plan, Ministers were unhappy at an ANZUS pact from which Britain was excluded. It was feared that this might be taken as a sign that Britain in Pacific. At the the same time it was pointed out was renouncing responsibilities In the end British that Britain had not the resources to meet these responsibilities. blessing was reluctantly bestowed upon the ANZUS pact on the understanding that this should be the first step towards a much wider pact on the model of NATO.



Korea `What happensnext?'


21 July


The Korean War had been on for a month before the Foreign Office, in company State Department, began the to think what they were fighting for- a return to with the status quo ante seemed the best to be hoped for. While the idea of crossing the parallel to unite Korea had obvious attractions, the risks were said in July to , benefits in South Korean forces in full retreat it was outweigh the and any case with MacArthur's follow-up to the brilliant success of the Inchon not a practical possibility. landings changed all that and by October UN aims had been extended to crossing the parallel with a view to achieving a unified, independent and democratic Korea. Ernest Bevin took a lead in promoting he these aims `the otherwise as said Russians will virtually have triumphed and the United Nations whole effort will have been in vain'. 52 One of the problems about for planning a united government of 50 DBPC), Series II, Volume IV, No. 42: Bevin, 30 Aug. 1950. 51 Ibid., No. 23: Dixon July 21 1950. minute, 52 Ibid., No. 54: Bevin, 25 Sept. 1950.


Rhee, whose regime of `black reaction, Korea was what to do with Syngman 53 ice. In Off incompetence' deplored in Foreign the brutality the was and extreme face of clear American support for him, Bevin did not press British objections to his Rhee South Korea but immediately in in to protest when weighed reinstatement North his administrative began to make his own plans for extending to authority Korea. While accepting that South Korea would have a role in policing North Korea Bevin in the interim period between UN military victory and nation-wide elections, for administering North Korea did not lie with the insisted that the responsibility Nations. but with the unified command United South Korean government of the This contrasted with Chinese terms for a cease-fire which included the stipulation Korean Korean domestic be left the to people affairs should that the settlement of decide. to The UN commitment to a free and united Korea still stands but by the spring of 1951 it was accepted that it was no longer practicable to achieve this by force. The diplomatic Americans far settlement seemed as away as ever with the prospects of a China Chinese hold the towards to to and out even when unbend willing refusing in Office By April Foreign had `We the to admit a are suffering appalling casualties. jam in Korea... We can neither get out nor get on. '54 for in drag a war which was to on volume ends at this point of stalemate before Panmunjom July 1953. 27 the two signing of an armistice at years on another FarrarThis later phase of the war will be treated fully by General Sir Anthony Hockley in the second volume of his official history on the British part in the Korean War.


Meanwhile, the DBPO collection of documents concludes with a review by the Chiefs in Staff War. Korean the the the the changes world situation since of outbreak of of Soviet The shock of the Korean War-described by them to as a proxy---led war Russians be force Cold War the to to a the might now reconsider whether willing hot conclusion sooner than they had expected. In line with American thinking the brought forward 1952. The importance Far defending time to testing now the was of East also assumed greater importance basic the although principles and priorities of 1950 remained essentially unchanged. For the rest the Chiefs of Staff recorded their Korea for collective the towards providing at practical progress since satisfaction by NATO developments, included Supreme American of way security, which an in Europe Commander German Averell (As and a measure of rearmament. later Harriman it had Korean War to put the 0 into to taken was the say, NATO). 55 Other welcome developments included a security pact for the Pacific and 53 Ibid., No. 23. i: Foreign Office memorandum, 9 July 1950. 54 Ibid., No. 142: Dixon minute, 9 April 1951. 55 Cited D Acheson, Present the Creation. My Years in the State Department (London, at


1970), p. 399.

force in driving for UN. The Uniting Peace United this the the of all was even at States which now seemed willing to take on the role of `policeman in the world'25--despite Britain to the cost of political strains and a role support was only too willing military overstretch.




Foreign by history It is a pleasure to join in welcoming the to another contribution Office. We scribblers, particularly those of us who live in provincial seclusion, owe Library Records Department. But kindness their the gifts and of the of none to much Documents is more valuable than the periodical these on publication of volumes of British Policy Overseas.The journey to Kew lasts longer and grows more wearisomejams Each do the that that every traffic with passes. reaches the year volume as University Library lessens the need for long distance travel. Of course, we all wish the money was available to match the speed of American Sixties. It is "I'hey the team that already are opening our up on quality production. is Korea And a particularly welcome topic, even to those more concerned scores. half forgotten is That this period. war at the root of so many of with other aspects of Britain's troubles-even today. interesting from this volume-in It is thus particularly to receive confirmation the in documents--of illuminating the the admirable preface as well as selection of decision-making Britain into distant As took the that this so conflict. character of it No have been happens, to attempt seems was essentially a reflex action. often in interests, British by terms the the to of national analyse, situation created made invasion of South Korea from the North or to consider which would be the most for Britain to pursue. profitable policy Of course, in the doom-laden 1950, the opening and atmosphere chronic anxiety of have been little Voting for American thought. regarded as needing the moves must Security in Council disposal States United the the the placing and at resolution of British happened Naval Commander be in Far Eastern to such as warships waters instinctive They inexpensive. almost natural, responses. were were also important Perhaps Britain's is an consideration. was then poverty most easily by it. In for icy February 1947, those the of us who experienced envisaged of instance, when I took the so-called country-house test for the Foreign Service, public homes buildings and private were often unheated, sometimes only candle-lit. frequent, because Electricity island had People this cuts were then of coal no coal. buy from to the nearest gas works. Food was short. Eggs, coke queued with prams tea, sugar, fats, butter, cheese, meat and bacon were all rationed even in 1950-in 1945. It than and cheese more severely meat was to scanty meals in cold houses Britons home the the end tired years after of war-that trudged through the --five



fuel The German of another crisis spectre continuing still visible ravages of American buying by haunted the government and was only averted coal with scarce dollars and by the unexpectedly mild winter of 1950-51. bombing.

home investment halted had The Second World at and not merely after all, liquidated assets abroad, but had burdened Britain with C4 billion (at least 50 billion had in Lease Lend debt. foreign in today's depreciated ended of currency) September 1945, the American Loan (with its damaging insistence on convertibility) had been exhausted in March 1948. Marshall Aid was approaching its end. A heroic War,

the expense of consumption and such urgent needs as on exports--at concentration balance deficit 1945 house-building-had the the of payments of transformed on into billion) 1950 least be 11 (today 900 that would a at million pounds nearly by her inching herself But Britain 300 out of the abyss was still million. surplus of finger-nails. be from drawn this wretched state of there were two conclusions that could London, States he United Ambassador Harriman, Averell was in when affairs. formulated one of them in telling his staff:


`Having mortgaged her future to pay for the war, Britain is on the verge of bankruptcy. England is so weak she must follow our leadership. ' I His doctrine had many British disciples. One of them was Sir Oliver Franks, whose long telegram of 23 July 1950, reproduced in this volume as document No. 25, is a irreverent London in to striking example of the attitude which caused young men In this describe him, most unfairly, as the American Ambassador in Washington. Government British for in Franks to the troops the telegram war offer ground urged Korea. One remarkable passage sounded a note which would echo again and again for the next forty years: States Administration know that our economy is only just know have that these commitments all over the world- recovering-They we in in rar load heavy East, them, that the taking especially many of a we arc in the same struggle. Nevertheless --despite the power and position of the United States, the American people are not happy if they feel alone. The American people will not understand it if they are alone on the ground in Korea. '2



Over fifteen years later, when I was Head of the South Last Asia Department, Dean Rusk, then the American Secretary of State, demanded to see the [_:nion Jack , beside the Stars and Stripes in Vietnam. If Britain could not provide coven a single IW Averell Harriman Special Envoy Churchill Elie Abel, Stalin (London, 1976), to and and p. 531. 2 Documents British Policy Overseas,Series II, Volume IV (IIMSO, 1991), on F). 77.


American he battalion, troops would be forthcoming thundered, no when the enemy Sussex. but The Wilson Government firm in invaded the coast of their refusal, stood Cabinet, Ministers Attlee disposed 1950 in to accept many of whose the were as have American leadership as Averell Harriman could wished, readily yielded to the force of their own Ambassador's argument: United States Administration `I should expect the reaction the of by be decision deep to us and prolonged-[it] would seriously negative '3 long term the relationship.

to a impair

In spite of the reluctance of the Chiefs of Staff, fully conscious how over-stretched Britain's forces already were, first one, then another brigade was sent to Korea. initiated. The Conscription was extended and an enormous rearmament programme first tender shoots of economic recovery were blasted and a new sterling crisis was launched. The Stop-Go cycle would henceforth be the chronic British disease. in his magisterial Farrar-Hockley, history, has criticised official as belief for Korean War the that the common rearmament crippled the misleading British economy. As he points out, `the decision to rearm was principally to meet Atlantic Alliance. '4 is It for this reason that the volume the obviously obligations of discussing does Documents by British the the we are not mention pressure applied of for British rearmament American United States Government the or offer--never 5 bear implemented---to It is the cost. part of nevertheless arguable that a actually Cabinet by be devastating, the to recognised economically a rearmament programme be fully implemented for that could not want of resources and that was programme Conservative have drastically reduced by the Government's successors, would never been adopted without, to quote the worlds of Elizabeth Barker in her book on the

Sir Anthony

period: `the panic atmosphere created by MacArthur's fears by wilder vagaries and that the Korean war would spread and that the Russians would let loose its in Europe. '6 counterpart It is also interesting to note the more relaxed attitude of some of the other States. Germany United Japan, defeated had the and as ex-enemies, for inaction, Japanese though the sensible excuses made a tidy profit Americans in Korea. Belgium, France the to and the Netherlands supplies battalion Denmark, Italy Norway apiece; a and with with medical

clients of cast-iron by selling got away By units.

3 Ibid., p. 78. 4 Anthony

Farrar- llockley,

1990), p. I 10. 5 DBPO, Series 11, Volume 6 Elisabeth


The British Part in the Korean War, 111, (penmanRearmament 1950 (1iMSO,

"1he British Between the Superpowers, 1945-50


Vol. I-A


Obligation (IUMSO,

1989) covers these points. (London, 1983), p. 239.


all these countries, much to give priority to their own national continuing Italy, have, in 1950, the since single exception of with worse off than we were Norway--than high in GNP-twice higher the case of as we per capita achieved a have. I believe, still remains In London the conventional wisdom was-and, that constant influencing best Britain for American those the chance of support policies offered for American being this to was needed support when policies and of able count on Such interests. British the protection support was even of particular or promotion impoverished, however, days, in Britain, likely be those to still more required when bases be and assets and commitments a global power, with colonies and wanted to and troops and ships all over the world. did


not always go unquestioned among the younger conventional wisdom Service, had the those members of particularly whose recent experience of war a little eroded instinctive acceptance of the opinions received among their elders. I in in Embassy Djakarta 1950, I heresy the myself was at so cannot say whether was in Eastern Department Far I had it the as conspicuous then to as earlier observed be in the Eastern Department later discover in the South Fast Asia and would I can only offer my personal reaction at the time. I thought Department. our involvement in Korea was a mistake, believing that, until we had rebuilt our be economy, we should shedding overseas commitments, not taking on new ones at the other end of the earth.

I also wrote in my diary: `I do not share the opinion-that we must at all costs avoid a split with the United States-a favourable he much more position could ours -that of an be must ally whose opinions consulted and whose support can only be for ' a policy mutually expected agreed. I was much too optimistic. The position to which I wanted us to aspire was the one States had reserved for their own use. In London, United the unfortunately, optimism was even greater, though it took a different form. "There it was believed that our support for the United States had created a fund of goodwill for Britain in Washington. Nine months later we tried to draw on it and, have I described in as my latest book, Intervention at Abadan, 7 our cheque bounced bang that echoed right with a Middle East. In international is not a negotiable the across politics gratitude security.

James Cable, Interventionat Abadan: Plan Buccaneer(London, 1991).


knowledge of the Curiously enough, it was only when brushing up my rudimentary for had, in I discovered War this Korean that preparation seminar rather we Dr Peter Lowe, in his The Frustrations been warned. admirable essay on obliquely, Acheson Attlee in December 1950 `with Alliance, telling that as communist quotes of bank because '8 balanced books they their not goodwill every night. regimes you could familiar be Anyone who has had occasion to dip into Soviet strategic literature will doctrines it be indiscreet to would whereby as one's proclaim the convention with Super Power. be the to to other attributed own used American We should remember that Franks, a sophisticated analyst of political in Document 25, No. the telegram that suggested, appearing as we never psychology, for future Korea. American It troops to reward any sending was could expect 3 decision he be deep Favours prolonged. that to argued, a negative would, and reaction longer favours In April 1951 denied, unfortunately, than are remembered granted. Washington fending in from London Embassy were off complaints about the the American difficulties British in Persia by to the attitude reminding unsympathetic had had to endure much cautionary Foreign Office that the State Department 9 American in Korea. British advice about conduct of the war In October 1991 International Affairs published Nor was this an isolated phenomenon. by Professor Brenner describing `aggrieved, interesting the article at times an American feelings' `the of public opinion at negligible contribution' of their outraged, Gulf The War. Britain `a but the to author recognised as clear exception', gave allies behaviour Europeans to the the reprehensible of other and of much more attention Japan. 10 beware hindsight. The documents Naturally Mrs the temptations must we of of judgment Yasamee and her colleagues have chosen with such discriminating do tend impression derived from The British Government the to confirm other sources. of the day do seem to have judged the Soviet Union to be readier for general war and the United States to be less disposed, of their own accord, to join in the defence of Western Europe, than later evidence suggests to us was actually the case. The Attlee Government thought they had to pay twice and their advisers accordingly Far East in in for Europe, American the as well as an that now over, commitment have been inevitable feature to to us an of the policy of the United States as seems Power. We Americans Super had but hand, think the may not only a a stronger better. But know less their today cards we played more and we are naturally 8 Peter Lowe, I'hc Frustration of Alliance: Britain, the United States and the Korean War 1950-51' in The Korean War in History (Manchester, 1989), p. 87. 9 jamcs Cable, 34. oĂ&#x;. cit., p. 10 Michael Brenner Alliance: `The Gulf in IntÂŹrnational Affairs, October article 1991, a post-mortem' 672. 669 and pp.


So we ought not to be too severe in condemning the exorbitant premium for insurance, if Government even military we now think chose to pay have had it they could more cheaply.

frightened. the Attlee

I apologise for inflicting so many arguments on you. I know you would have preferred impressionistic in Office in the the an sketch of climate of opinion and sentiment and Whitehall. Unfortunately distantly but ignorantly I was sweltering in Indonesia, disgruntled, all through the period covered by Volume IV. I will make what amends I can by finishing with an anecdote-dubiously but relevant, authentic. In the autumn of 1953 I was back in the Office and went to a party in the perhaps Resident Clerk's flat. There I heard two colleagues exchanging reminiscences of longer a usual topic by that time. Struck their war-time experience in the army-no by something unexpected, almost off-key, in what they were saying, I listened for a Then light broke through the clouds that had darkened my mind. two. minute or They were discussing a different war, the Korean War. I finally I understood why had begun to think all the policemen were so young.










British documents first Publication to the policy relating of select six months of the history War is a welcome Korean to the addition of that event, not least in between United Kingdom United States. illumination the the relationship of and the have forty passed since the opening of the war. In one sense, it is than years lost the the period to view early of cold war; as such, almost part and parcel of inter-connected during The European those events of anxious years. within a mass in the Second democracies were struggling to recover from their impoverishment World War, and to survive the growing pressures of Stalinist expansionism. The benefits `soft' Marshall Aid, the currency; a notwithstanding the of pound sterling was frequently Government dollar loans British to to meet its obliged seek was deterred formation in NATO 1949 Soviet The but it of aggression obligations. in fielding in British huge Though the rearmament of a expense component. required imperial diminishing, to absorb considerable continued responsibilities political, As has in the resources. a consequence, military notion and grown economic, recent United Kingdom Labour beholden the the that of government to the was so years become States for financial American United in to as assistance an pawn inferred been Thus it has international that the two members politics. of in foreign high Government Mr Attlee, the policy most concerned with relations, Secretary, Mr Bevin, Foreign had Prime Minister, but follow the and to no option by force in Americans the resisting politically and of arms the invasion of South Korea by the armed forces of the North in the summer of 1950.


Official documents published earlier make it apparent that the United Kingdom was America's Mr inceptor Bevin Alliance. Having the client. was not of the Atlantic denying Soviet the mutual advantage of accepted expansion into western Europe, her the United States looked to Britain as principal ally in the partnership, a by both following in the sides relationship resumed naturally such an association Second World War. The documents now published on the Korean War show several discrete for reasons British support of the initial American President Truman believed the response. invasion of South Korea had been inspired by the Soviet Union as an element of its Communist influence Asia. China was assumed to be to strategy throughout extend involved in this. While judging Mr Bevin reminded his this view to be simplistic, American that insurgency in colleagues support was needed against Communist Malaya and Indo-China. But there was more to the Prime Minister's Foreign and Secretary's response than that consideration: neither could escape the experiences of


North identified the In 1930s. they separately their staff, to members of the asides by it inspired Whether international the Korean invasion as an act of was aggression. "I'his be had it deliberate item Soviet Union as an to checked. view policy or not, of is confirmed in the reviews of policy during the run of military operations. The importance of action to stem aggression explains the substantial nature of the South formed Command Nations United British military contribution to assist to the Korea, sea and land forces considerably greater than any other foreign nation apart Partly due to her from the United States, I highly valued by American commanders. Second World War, States in United longstanding the and close alliance with the Soviet in but also because of the resumption the of containment of that alliance Union, Britain was expected to engage actively in the political action to counter it during America to an extent reliant upon accepted this, and was aggression. London fact in Washington The that politicians and officials and recurrent crises. differences detract from by did the of view not were at times exasperated partnership. Government Sates United At the outset, British representation to persuaded the Truman's declaration President United the the that of second modify and wording of As drafted, Nations resolution the these aimed widely at on conflict. originally imperialism', including by implication `centrally directed Communist the Soviet Union. It was British policy to confine action to those manifestly in engaged hostilities. disagreements further between Washington London on this and were during fortunes United Nations the the the six months next as perspective military of Chinese Communist forces the then entry with of waned waxed, at the end of 1950. None was more critical than the argument between the two allies concerning the People's Republic of China following that intervention. America regarded the Peking Soviet Union; Britain believed tool the the that Mao Tse-tung of as government distance himself from be Stalin, become indeed to to the "I'ito of persuaded could States Government United Orient. The the contemplated encouragement of China in Taiwan Nationalist to raid the Chinese mainland, and an economic blockade of the People's Republic as a consequence of intervention in Korea. The British Government apprehended that the first might widen the war in Asia, and that The impracticable. the second was grounds of the dispute widened in the pursuance Peking. The Foreign Office State of peace negotiations with the warned Department that Britain would not vote with America in the General Assembly to Communist China condemn as an aggressor outside the context of Korea, or support


I These

comprised a naval squadron of 15 warships, including a light fleet carrier with support and two infantry brigades rising to the greater part of a division. The Royal Air Force provided boat support, and air crew seconded to the United States Air Force.


ships, (lying

from Despite China. pressure of the mainland proposals to widen operations against China, Communist the Party Republican American to penalise the public and the British over winning State Department of view, point to the slowly made concessions Africa. South Zealand, New Canada, inter alia in the process Australia, and Attlee's Mr isolated, increasingly being government Either unaware or careless of due to hand its partly began power, as a moderating to overplay then 2 faltering its America the disenchantment and members, among some of with Republic People's Although ill. Bevin, Mr of the judgment grievously was who of demanding battlefield, initially forces China, whose triumphant was on the were Mr Attlee Mr in Korea hostilities for and which the cessation of concessions precisely flirted Government British be had Truman with granted, the agreed they should not China, Communist in In this, the of as matter of condemnation policy. of reversal a being Nations. United danger in in the of marginalised they were been had States, State Department United Britain If really the of no account to the had juncture its the to all this necessary of and means proceed with condemnation at State, Mr People's Republic. Secretary The to the sanctions against of progress Acheson, with the agreement of the President, chose not to do so. Though he was a felt he he further target public of criticism, which acutely, offered concessions prime At British it People's Republic the the viewpoint. end of all, to the was condemned in Korea, in Asia. The than rather matter of sanctions was stood as an aggressor for further options peace negotiations were considered. over while In this struggle, as the policy papers now published disclose, in the absence of the influence in the formulation Foreign Secretary, so long a dominant and conduct of Office Foreign in in London poste the officials of and en policy, the principal York, New in breach Washington played a prominent and part avoiding a with the Commonwealth. States and an important Such breach United the element of a in degree in British have to reduction a one or another resulted status as an would international power. After the Chinese were finally contained and the line stabilised in the late spring of both sides settled to the long process of 1951, the Korean issue lacked immediacy; Britain and the Commonwealth in involved bargaining at Panmunjom. partners were States had United director But the the role of executive and majority this. its directors those partners of non-executive with minority shareholdings. shareholder;

2 There Labour Britain in in Party dollar 1945, to the the resentment at abrupt ending of credits was Marshall Aid These feelings the terms of resumption, subsequent notwithstanding. and were exacerbated by American pressure on Britain to spend large sums for rearmament in connection with the formation NATO. of



agreement was essential negotiations to the principal.










The world lost interest during these years, 1951-53; and this greater term of the war tends to veil the events of the opening months, when the political influence of the United Kingdom was notable, occasionally crucial.





POLICY 1950-1


Peter Lowe

I welcome the publication I would like to say at the outset how warmly of this of character the changing rapidly and complexity covers admirably so volume which it it. I British Korean to read with the pleasure of responses the and conflict have I dimensions-in familiar that tragic though of some events-even recalling very documents I have for the ten read most of this over years and area researched it in if had fulfils I The not surpassing anticipated, what volume entirely reproduced. in have I (and, included is total read the microfiches). yes, terms of what factor' in formulation focus I `MacArthur brief the In my of want to on the remarks, British policy. This is one of the principal themes running through the volume which Truman's dismissal in MacArthur April British The 1951. President of ends with MacArthur inevitable it the appointment of regarded as once was clear government forces be UN, American the the to the would committed, under authority of that in length, scope, and defence of South Korea. MacArthur's record was unrivalled The British view of his role as SCAP in Japan was positive in the achievement. in Gascoigne document from February 1951, said, a that reproduced main: direction of the occupation had been effective and largely successful. ' MacArthur's Of course, he was known to relish an independent harbour to approach and but it felt difficulties be ambitions that these potential was presidential could issuing through the leaving General of explicit instructions surmounted the too not freedom The of manoeuvre. much gravity of the situation was such in July 1950 that it was imperative holding to concentrate Korean the North on offensive and to it without be pondering unduly what problems reverse could associated with It felt in London that MacArthur MacArthur's handled matters as command. was be done between July September he 1950: as could and the capably stabilised implemented restored morale and commitment, then and the masterstroke situation, landing in Inchon The British MacArthur the mid-September. towards of view was at its warmest in September 1950.

Indeed, there was then a close coalescence between MacArthur's approach and that Attlee Ernest Clement Bevin but it be between and not, should of stressed, MacArthur and the British Chiefs of Staff. When the success of the Inchon landing became clear, the question as to how UN policy in Korea would develop and what happen North This Korea loomed large. to was a complicated matter, more would Documentson British Policy Overseas(hereafter cited as DBPO), Series II, Volume (HMSO, 1991), No. 112: Gascoigne to Bevin, 6 Feb. 1951.


IV, Korea 1950-1

been had Britain British by MacArthur government. than or the so was appreciated if 1943 194.5 Korea this and was not to the since a unified attainment of committed had Sung's 11 Kim in 1948. by UN by decisions regime the reached underlined bid in blatant UN had to a to aggression the to resorted and cooperate with refused Washington, As in London Korean this aggression and seen enforce unification. China. Soviet Union and probably occurred almost certainly with the support of the be Korea North If in Asian East Korea MacArthur terms. could saw very much UN Korea liquidated protection, established under unified and an anti-communist Asia in be and this would seen as a severe check to the advance of communism far it less in defence Japan more viable, addition to making of would render the likely that Taiwan would fall to the Chinese communists. MacArthur was not much deeply The Soviet Union. British concerned government was concerned with the important defeat Soviet North Korea Union part of of as an and saw the with the Stalin in the process of standing up to and of achieving success reversing communist did Truman Acheson, Attlee to the seductive yet and succumbed, as expansion. for This Bevin's `rollback'. dangerous explains enthusiasm extremely appeal of in late September Korea beyond 38th the and early parallel and unifying advancing October 1950, fully endorsed by Attlee. The British Chiefs of Staff disagreed, dangers inherent in than the anyone else great advancing appreciating more acutely favoured They to the restoration of the status quo ante rather an approximation north. force. fears China by Their be drawn into that than unification could well military brushed by MacArthur in Korea, by Attlee Bevin aside and, originally action and Chiefs Staff justified. The doubt fully MacArthur's of showed growing regarding were reliability. The COS doubts communicated in the themselves more forcibly to the government October in first half November half the and of of with the emergence of the second British proposal for a buffer zone to obviate full-scale Chinese intervention. Doubts intensified by MacArthur the events of sharply and were greatly exacerbated about late November. Full-scale Chinese action totally transformed the Korean War: this hundred by MacArthur British the shared one per cent conclusion was one and however, It British MacArthur they agreed on, government. all and was criticism of increased markedly and consistently between November 1950 and April 1951. The British government believed that the Korean War should be dealt with by stabilising the fighting rather than of continuing a protracted retreat and then of endeavouring favour to reach a negotiated solution. MacArthur appeared to escalating conflict to the point of war with China and to abandon the Korean peninsula if necessary. Thedangerous Korean War in December 1950 and January the most phase of occurred 1951, as regards Anglo-American British directly relations. opinions were expressed by Attlee (when in Washington for talks with Truman), times and, at very powerfully by Oliver Franks as ambassador (more diplomatically), RAF by Marshal the of and Sir John Slessor, who was the most important Defence individual the within in Britain in conveying establishment the full extent of British anxiety over


delicate, The American MacArthur strategy. whole subject area was particularly and by leadership implicitly it the exercised political and control questioned since but Asia East had doubted in long MacArthur's Truman Truman. President role in involved knew the considerable risks Truman was a shrewd political operator and is, MacArthur (that form effectively of action which would curb taking the only by in January British 1951 immediate The him). dismissing an anxiety was met by General Ridgway's following direction in improvement and appointment military determination in American to British the secure compromising reluctantly the in Chinese Assembly General UN in aggression motion condemning of a the passage Korea. MacArthur's The British feeling was that, although power was clearly waning he November 1950, he had blows following possessed the potent suffered since having it two the that of absurdity essential and was value nuisance considerable It be by American different ended. was spokesmen must enunciated approaches Truman's deliberately by himself MacArthur torpedoing who solved the problem in China March 1951 begin then with and to exchange with an attempt in MacArthur Congressman Joseph Martin's which with release of correspondence Herbert his disapproval his General own government. of the policy of made clear the felt that British views had now succeeded the dying Bevin and Morrison Morrison linked Morrison's far be this own was with more emphatically; conveyed must in leader Labour Attlee turn, minister to prime which, and as succeed ambition formulation By his he the to of policy. contribution wished to establish meant that The MacArthur decision had Truman that the must go. reached this time by in Britain-the Labour all government, was welcomed with relief announcement Statesmanlike Conservative Liberal COS, tributes to the opposition parties. and the but disguising MacArthur's there the elation was no past achievements were made Asia. from East departure MacArthur's accompanying factor' both complicated and personified the arguments To conclude, the `MacArthur between Britain and the USA in 1950-1. The deeper components of Anglo-American between USA friction the two the the powers with comprised changing relationship in decline by issue in Britain (illustrated the the more of a ascendancy and more 2 in documents), by Pacific pact and ANZUS to the the a number of referred in 1949-51 American domestic and the growing attacks on politics acrimony within Acheson in MacArthur's Truman Dean the particular. administration and be but the personal side should not sharpened these matters carried too contribution in far. There was much that the British and American governments shared common down to November 1950. Where Britain diverged most sharply from MacArthur was China back British decision the to the this to recognise and roots of over went Communist China in January Chiang 1950 while the USA continued to recognise 2 Ibid., Nos. 127,131 and 138.


Kai-shek's regime in Taiwan. What Oliver Franks referred to in April 1951 as brought `MacArthuritis' largely in but April 1951 is to an end was not entirely which where this volume appropriately ends.







Richard Bevins

Nations' United Volume IV's highlights three elements of This paper coverage of the UN's in War: Korean in the the organisation involvement created to the place forces in Korea; the part played by the UN in co-ordinating UN member command future forces; debate the the to these of and over assistance of offers governments' South invasion Korea. its by UN the to of effective response prompted the Command


News of the invasion of South Korea on 25 June produced several almost instinctive despatched load General MacArthur West. in a plane of observers the reactions in Korea; is American kind has `he fact the despite the that nor no authority of any United Nations US his to the the referred events and orders' under mission military UN Council. 1 Resolutions Security member states to render every calling on hostilities for UN's in to the an end and withdrawal call of the execution assistance furnish June) (25 38th that to members assistance and recommending the parallel to for basis UN's June) Korea (27 Republic the the continuing were of aid the 2 The UN was quick to follow the War. Korean in the course of the involvement American lead since, as the UN Secretary General, Trygve Lie, said, `developments in Korea were an affront to the United Nations more than to anyone else-more United Nations had States----since been largely United the so very even than to the 3 Republic'. formation for the of the responsible As a result of the 27 June resolution cover for Western assistance to Korea rested on Council Security Foreign Office `it the the and that accepted of a recommendation Council be the that to should wish as actively associated therefore seems reasonable 4 is Quite how be done this to possible'. as was with the progress of operations UN. Ensuring `the the that tensions necessary action within produced some early United Nations "umbrella"' legally, be the to taken under so as gain should in the eyes of world opinion conflicted with the operational need to and politically in `squarely hands General the the affairs of military of actual conduct place

I Documents on (HMSO, 1991), 2 For the texts Higgins) United

British Policy Overseas (hereafter cited as DBPO), Series II, Volume No. 1, notes I and 2. Cmd. Rosalyn 8078 1950 Higgins these of of and resolutions see Nations Peacekeeping 1946-1967 (London, 1970), pp. 160 and 162.

3 DBPO, Series II, Volume IV, No. 3, June Lie, 25 10: 1950. note 4 Ibid., No. 10: Younger to Jebb, 2 July 1950.



Korea 1950-1




5 from The interference MacArthur outside'. possibility of possible with the minimum inadequacies dangers Soviet highlighted UN the and potential of the a return to the for UN to the collective security. available upholding machinery UN American to control to committee enforcement a establish proposals from both UK in Korea the and the after objections action were not pursued it Chiefs of Staff (JCS). Neither American Joint possible to make use of the was for institution in UN Staff Committee Military (MSC)the the provided existing for Charter force in to implement the Security Council's the the use of armed plans 6 Gross, breaches US Deputy Permanent For Ernest the of peace. as event of Initial

Representative, from Staff fact Military `Quite the that the pointed out, apart Committee doing impossible was not capable of any practical situation work an if Russians demanded the turned to see any plans which would arise suddenly up and Staff Committee had been preparing. '? In addition the Military these to endorsing Office Foreign the thought that the use of the MSC was probably arguments not legally applicable in Security its Council the except cases where own was conducting forces its disposal by military operations put at using means of special agreements Article Charter. 43 of the under The




structure which and representatives settled on eventually in a resolution (incorporated July) 7 JCS' adopted on to the concern to owed much interpose between banner its in themselves the UN and the forces fighting under Korea. The Foreign Office was similarly Council Security keep to the at concerned from length arm's that the actual operations while at the same time proposing Council to consider should meet as often as necessary on the military reports This first `achieve Council by demonstrating is situation. the would our that objective in Korea'. 8 taking an active interest in developments

It was subsequently agreed that the reports to the Security Council from the unified command established under the United States by the resolution of 7 July would pass from General MacArthur to the JCS, who would review them for transmission to the Security Council Secretary Defense State Department. After the via of and difficulties by UK from overcoming constitutional the raised and military objections the JCS, the resolution specified that the unified command would be able to fly the UN flag. Accordingly 14 July the US Army's Chief of Staff, General Collins, on formally UN flag to General MacArthur, his it the presented at who raised 5 Ibid., No. 10. 6 Ibid., No. 9, Jebb 10: to note Watson, The History of thejoint The UN Charter is printed in 7 DBPO, Series II, Volume IV, 8 Ibid., No. 10.

Younger, 29 June 1950 and No. 10. Cf. James F Schnabel and Robert J Chiefsof Staff, Volume III, Part I (Wilmington, 1979), pp. 133 and 137. British and ForeignStatePapers(London, 1953), Volume 145, pp. 805-32). No. 10, note 7: Gross to Jebb, 28 June 1950.


US General in Tokyo. be MacArthur headquarters to the responsible was to (acting as the agent of the UN) from whom he would receive his Government instructions. In discussion with Sir Oliver Franks in April 1951 Dean Rusk, American State, despite Deputy Under-Secretary to the that of commented press speculation 9 General fact MacArthur had directives his got actions. was restricting contrary, the The


to give


US to cover what was effectively a controlled in North Koreans the the enough early phase when by UN forces. Subsequent Chinese setbacks after

procedures well worked structure command held and then routed first were Concern led to much criticism intervention the of command structure. was expressed Cabinet General MacArthur both in the British Parliament that and and possibly the it, by US government, objectives other or elements within were pursuing not shared by UN. Existing did the machinery not allow the or endorsed countries contributing issued to General Ernest MacArthur UN to have any say in the instructions and by `be leave Bevin the to troubled the need careful not to was particularly impression

that the reason why General MacArthur

these give Resolutions Nations 10 contents'.



instructions the latitude more or that


are not made public is either because United than a strict fulfilment the of have knowledge simply we no of their

implications focussed on the political of a possible extension of the concern MacArthur China-if `action beyond his this took chose course and going war to Mandate' it would occur without the UN considering its effects and without the UK Franks having any right to be consulted. Bevin accordingly to press the US to asked least' `at Security Council the those to obtain agreement of and consult agree Korea before in forces Dean Acheson taking any such action. replied members with difficulty in formal be `there our undertaking that a some commitment would not to individual Security the agreement of express the members of proceed... without but reassured Bevin that the problem be Council' `more theoretical may than determination in US its friends in to act of closely view with practical' accordance Il UN policy. with British


Assistance of

The adoption by the UN of a co-ordinating role rather than a controlling one is illustrated by the part played by the UN in considering offers of assistance. 12 Trygve 9 Ibid., No. 134, note 3. 10 Ibid., No. 77: Bevin to Franks, 22 November 1950. 11 Ibid. and note 4 for Acheson's response, 24 November 1950. 12 Full details of the offers of assistance in 1950 from 39 UN member states are given in the 1950 Yearbookof the United Nations, pp. 226-8. For a summary of the position in January 1953 Higgins, see pp. 198-9.


Lie, had appealed to all UN members on 29 June for offers of assistance in Korea; highlighting July, 14 `urgent' he 52 the members on an appeal which repeated to Secretary State, Under Deputy forces. Sir Dixon, for Pierson of viewed need ground it Lie's second appeal as `unfortunate as would confirm the recent charges against him that he was a "stooge of Wall Street". ' Lie had in fact indicated at a press from his held l4 July that conferences action resulted conference on the morning of 13 delegation in New fact American York. More the the that the with welcome was Secretary latest appeal included direct offers of assistance to the a request to GeneralOffice Foreign for it helped to preserve the the a course which approved however, UN The JCS that response. appearance of a co-ordinated were anxious, be military accepted some examination of their offers should not without dependent on effectiveness and consequently acceptance of an offer of assistance was directly between Washington detailed the outcome of and the exchanges conducted decision The British to concerned. government's member government subsequent first later forces in fact land Washington to to communicated and only send was Trygve Le. 14 Uniting



Awareness that the robust reaction from the UN had been `possible only owing to Soviet Delegate from Council Security the fortuitous the the absence of and the United States had to take prompt to of the willingness steps meet aggression' in Americans the resulted producing a `three-way programme' designed to strengthen 15 Nations. This plan, unveiled in August 1950, envisaged (a) procedures United the to empower the General Assembly to respond to cases of aggression when the Security Council was paralysed by use of the veto including (b) the despatch of a factfinding or peace observation commission and (c) plans for a UN force or legion to be first instance by in Committee. Collective 16 Measures the a 14-member coordinated Although British Ministers had some sympathy for moves to get round the abuse of the veto which had `gravely impaired the effectiveness of the United Nations as an instrument for preserving world peace', they were concerned the about strengthening Assembly at the expense of the Security Council and, in particular, sharing the decision-making for world process with those powers who bore least responsibility 17 foresaw Bevin dangers in relaxing the power of veto held by peace and security. Soviet Union and the Cabinet agreed that the the United Kingdom the as well as

13 See DBPO, Series II, Volume IV, No. 4, note 6 and No. 21, note 2 for Lie's appeals. Ibid., No. 21 for Dixon's comments of 15July 1950. 14 Ibid., No. 27, note 7. 15 Ibid., No. 98: UK Brief for Commonwealth Prime Ministers Meeting, 27 December 1950. 16 Ibid., No. 43: Memorandum by Mr Bevin, 31 August 1950. 17 ibid., No. 44: Cabinet Conclusions, 4 September 1950. Cf. No. 33, note 7.


in could not accept a position which government interests. British incompatible with vital veto action British

it would

have no right


it was recognised that the safeguarding of British interests could depend on 18 States in found in its `policeman United the the role as new world'. supporting Bevin and most of his colleagues thought that the most effective way of giving this heart Atlantic (`the defence') developing by the of our and making pact support was by into UN turning the than something rather a series of regional arrangements 19 idea force UN The of of a pact. raising security a world-wide approaching from was many members as possible as to a contribution gain as so volunteers Sir Gladwyn Jebb as `not nearly so lunatic as it appears at first sight', by regarded for External Affairs, was already Canadian Minister Pearson, Lester especially since 20 Chiefs Staff British However, in idea the of considered principle. the to attracted be UN `must the suppressed organisation within military to a establish that proposals discuss body imagine Slim] W [Sir to such no more unsuitable could at all costs... 21 doing less or expeditiously'. so efficiently of capable matters--or Equally

for however UN, American it that the At the same time plans was appreciated its `every to idealistic, military organise great or small, a chance country, gave be the to to and morally physically not only to contribute able as resources so it defence of world peace' and perhaps, more significantly, was clear that this was a Office's determined. The Foreign Americans was view the were on which course fundamentally designed its in `the to political and give was conception that resolution felt it States United countries' military action' other and or to was cover political be far `it to the the confined political and side, military possible as that as should Cabinet had therefore least The to the agreed support soft-pedalled'. side Observation Peace features, commission and earmarking national eg objectionable discouraging for UN to moves relegate questions of peace while service, contingents body fifty-nine `a in Assembly: General representing nations which and security to the Some have to the modifications original proposals were secured, only one vote'. we but the essential features remained and in Britain's view the final product left much fashioned in Committee in 60 inevitable desired, is be `as a resolution to a of almost Britain It `some that was prevailed upon to coapprehension' members'. was with 22 by Assembly 3 November. for Peace' `Uniting the on resolution passed sponsor the Anglo-American differences over the future purpose of the UN were crystalised in discussions provoked by the Korean War. Disagreements over Chinese representation 18 Ibid., No. 25: Franks to Bevin, 23 Ju1y 1950. 19 Ibid., No. 37, Cf. for Bevin No. 1, Franks, 80 Acheson's endorsement. August 1950. 14 to note 20 Ibid., No. 43. ii: Jebb to Sir A Noble, 3 August 1950. 21 Ibid., No. 98, Chiefs 3: Staff December 1950. 19 note of meeting, 22 Ibid., Nos. 43,63 98. and


in it but divergence respective was also reflected were the obvious expression of this Americans Office The Foreign for Peace'. `Uniting as saw the attitudes towards international Nations United `a police as an effective cherishing conception of the into division `accelerate two armed and the of the world organisation' which would hostile camps'. The UK would rather regard the UN `as a world organisation whose 23 disputes'. function is the peaceful settlement of primary

23 Ibid., No 137: letter from Younger to Jebb, 31 March 1951.



Was British


in the Korean


War a mistake? (Sir James Cable dixil).

basic Few disagreed this that the Western covered question. to a predictable response a war which correctly or not action: a reflex was response Soviet by Union in be Cold War. judged to the the the to raise stakes a move was British The question of Soviet intentions-or rather and allied perceptions of these intentions-remained the key.




One possibility was that Stalin needed a low cost success for Soviet foreign policy Greece. in Yugoslavia The basis for Berlin, the setbacks and a series of risings after in the Far East had already been laid by the 1948 Calcutta Cominform-with some in Malaya. At for Kim Il-Sung's Moscow the time of approach to assistance success factors have had Stalin's impact thinking when giving the these might well on some light. Equally, Stalin had become directly involved in to probably no wish green less in armed conflict Korea-still have Western Powers. This the with may Soviet from UN in key June to continued the the contributed absence when votes were taken. British

analysis at the time tended to the view that the Soviet Union had made a in UN block UN in Korea. involvement to the not returning mistake to sooner so as On the other hand it could have been, as Ales Bebler, the Yugoslav representative UN, in June 1950 it done deliberately the that suggested at to continue to was China UN. According the to Bebler, the Soviet Union was already embroil with China, the apprehensive of growing power of a country which the JIC considered was invulnerable to attack. In 1950 British planners thought the Chinese leadership was less predictable, less Stalin's. Moscow have than and possibly rational, may made a similar appreciation.

It was agreed that, forty years on, the evidence to determine with any certainty the for, degree Sino-Soviet involvement in Korea, was still lacking. Unless reasons or of Russian the archives can shed some light on the question, it will remain, as it did at the time, a matter for speculation.





Sir James




Sir Anthony

HM Diplomatic


Service 194.7-80

Cabinet Office Historian

Dr Peter


Reader in Modern



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A series of papers on British policy towards the Korean War, 1950-51, presented at a seminar in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 8...