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The Effects of the Cold War in Asia Essay

The cold war was the name given to the economic, political, military and ideological rivalry that took place between the United States and its allies and the Soviet Union and their allies after World War II. The two powers never directly engaged in military action because both had nuclear weapons that if used, would have had devastating consequences for both sides. Alternatively, proxy wars were fought. A proxy war results when opposing powers use third parties as substitutes for fighting one another and is typically initiated by a power that does not itself participate.

The Korean and Vietnam wars are two examples of proxy wars because the U. S. and the Soviet Union did not engage each other however, Soviet attempts to spread and unify both Korea and Vietnam under communist rule prompted intervention either by the United States and/or by their allies. Another example of communist expansionism is the Malayan emergency that lasted from 1948-1960 which resulted in a guerrilla insurgency committed to an independent communist Malaya. These three events were just a few effects of the cold war in Asia.

This essay will discuss each event individually and in more detail and attempt to convince readers that the Korean and Vietnam wars and the Malayan emergency were the direct results of Soviet attempts to expand communist rule in Asia and the United States and their allies’ policy of preventing and containing such moves. The Korean War The Japanese occupation of Korea ended after 35 years when they surrendered to both Soviet and American forces in 1945. The plan for the future of Korea was to hold free and fair elections and establish a democratic Korean government.

In the meantime, the Soviets and the Americans agreed to occupy the country as a trusteeship. Korea was then divided at the 38th parallel- the U. S. occupied the South and the Soviets occupied the North. In 1948, two separate governments were established – the Democratic People’s Republic under communist rule in the North, and the Republic of Korea in the South. Sunday June 25th 1950, North Korea began its attack on South Korea (with the support of the Soviet Union) starting with a 90-minute artillery barrage and then a full invasion of North Korean tanks and infantry across the 38th parallel into South Korea.

The United Nations quickly condemned the invasion and insisted the North stop their advance and retreat. When it was evident that the North was not complying with this demand, President Truman, on June 27th authorized the United States Navy and Air Force to support South Korea. The U. N. gave the United States the authority to choose the supreme commander who would lead the allied mission. President Truman chose General Douglas MacArthur who was experienced and considered an American war hero. On June 28th, three days after the invasion Seoul, the South Korean capital was taken over by the North Korean forces.

On June 30th, President Truman commissioned the use of American troops in South Korea. Ultimately, 16 member nations would contribute forces to the mission of repelling the North Koreans. During the first weeks of the war, the communist North took Seoul and continued their invasion Southward with little difficulty. The South Korean army and U. N. forces were pushed back to Busan – an area located at the southeastern most tip of Korea. On September 15th 1950, MacArthur launched a daring but necessary allied counteroffensive involving about 70,000 troops at Inchon.

This purpose of this landing was twofold – first, catch the North Koreans off guard and second, disrupt both communications and supply lines. Now at a disadvantage upon success of MacArthur’s counteroffensive, the North Koreans began to retreat. This allowed the “cornered” South Korean army and U. N. forces at Busan to march north and meet up with the other U. N. forces. By early October 1950, all U. N. forces were together at the 38th parallel. Although it appeared that the Korean mission was a success, the war was far from over.

Approved by both the U. N. nd the Joint Chiefs of Staff, South Korean troops and U. N. forces crossed the 38th parallel into North Korea. The People’s Republic of China warned U. N. troops that if they crossed the 38th parallel, they would enter the war. MacArthur however, reassures President Truman who is apprehensive over the news that they would not enter the war. However, on November 23rd 1950, about 200,000 Chinese troops crossed the Yalu River and attacked U. N. forces prompting a bold retreat and an immediate withdraw of troops.

By December 24th 1950, the navy evacuated approximately 100,000 U. N. and South Korean troops and roughly as many refugees. General Matthew B. Ridgeway replaced General Walton Walker who died at the end of December 1950. His deployment began Christmas day and he commenced the rebuilding of the Eighth Army. Seoul, which had been recaptured by U. N. forces in October, was abandoned in early January 1951. Nevertheless, by March 27th 1951, the Eighth Army took back Seoul and reached the 38th parallel. In November 1952, the United Nations changed their policy towards the war and approved a defensive strategy.

However, the war entered a deadlock both politically and militarily. In January 1953, Dwight Eisenhower succeeded Harry Truman as President of the United States. Determined to resolve the deadlock and end the Korean War, he threatened to use nuclear weapons against China if they did not agree to a peaceful solution. Finally, after three years of conflict, an armistice was signed on July 27th 1953. Casualties were high for all parties involved – an estimated 33,741 Americans killed in action and 103,284 wounded. South Korean numbers are much higher – 59,000 killed in action and 291,000 wounded. U. N. orces that include Australia, United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand lost 1,263 and 4,817 wounded.

Remaining U. N. forces including Belgium, Columbia, Ethiopia, France, Greece, the Netherlands, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand and Turkey suffered 1,800 killed in action and 7,000 wounded. North Korean and Chinese casualties are not clear, but estimates are 500,000 killed and 1,000,000 wounded. With the support of both the Soviet Union and China, North Korea invaded South Korea for the purpose of overthrowing the government, taking control of the South and unifying the entire peninsula under communist rule.

However, this strategy failed because the international community responded. Unfortunately, the war did not settle the dispute of unification and effects of this are still felt today in both North and South Korea. Although it is difficult to determine the winner, if any, of this war, it is clear that the response of both the United Nations and United States was to contain the spread of communism. Perhaps, the only party that could claim victory is the Chinese. Chinese forces were successful in forcing allied troops out of North Korea and across the 38th parallel.

China would now play a significant role in the future peace talks. The Vietnam War The French had formerly occupied Vietnam prior to 1940 when Japan invaded parts of the country. Now, Vietnam had to foreign occupiers – the French and the Japanese. In August 1945, Japan surrendered to allied forces. This gave Vietnamese nationalists led by Ho Chi Minh the opportunity to proclaim the independence of Vietnam. However, the French were determined to regain control of the country. This led to a bloody war between the Vietnamese nationalists and the French in November 1945.

The most troubling for the United States was that the Vietnamese nationalists, the Viet Minh, was a communist movement. Nevertheless, it was not until 1950, when the Soviet Union and China recognized the Viet Minh that confirmed American suspicions, revealing Ho Chi Minh, in secretary of state Dean Acheson’s words, “in his true colors as the mortal enemy of native independence in Indochina. ” A concern among US officials was that US interests were at stake if Vietnam became a communist country. Therefore, in 1950, the US provided monetary assistance to the French effort in Vietnam.

Nevertheless, in 1954, France withdrew from Vietnam after a significant defeat at Dien Bien Phu. In July 1954, an agreement was reached at the Geneva conference that temporarily divided Vietnam at the 17th parallel. The Viet Minh led by Ho Chi Minh would control the North and forces such as the United States who aided the French would control the south. The agreement also called for national elections to be held by July 1956 to reunite the country under one government. The United States however, disagreed and refused to accept the agreement worried the Communists would win and unite Vietnam under communism.

If Vietnam became communist, it was believed among US officials that surrounding countries would also become communist – this was known as the domino theory. Therefore, with the help of the United States, elections were carried out but only in South Vietnam. June 18, 1954 Ngo Dinh Diem was elected as the first president of South Vietnam backed by the United States. However by 1960, many Vietnamese began feeling oppressed by Diem’s leadership and organized the National Liberation Front (NFL) also known as the Viet Cong that would fight against both the South Vietnamese government and United States forces.

When Lyndon Johnson became president in November 1963 following John F. Kennedy’s assassination, he began sending aid to the newly formed government. On August 2, 1964, two US warships were attacked by North Vietnamese gunboats in international waters known as the Gulf of Tonkin incident. In response, Johnson asked Congress for the authority to do whatever it took to withstand any further attacks from the North Vietnamese against US forces. Congress approved Johnson’s request with the “Gulf of Tonkin” resolution.

Only after Johnson was re-elected as president in November 1964 did he intensify the war in Vietnam. In early 1965 Johnson ordered the bombing of North Vietnam and in March 1965 ordered large numbers of US military troops to South Vietnam. Johnson’s intention was not to achieve victory but for the US forces to strengthen South Vietnam’s defenses until they were able to assume responsibility. By the summer of 1965, 90,000 US troops were in Vietnam. Nevertheless, General Westmoreland, the US commander in Vietnam would ask Johnson for another 150,000 troops.

Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara recommended sending 100,000 additional US troops to Vietnam. Johnson would approve McNamara’s recommendation. Despite the US military buildup, the Viet Cong were well supplied and dedicated fighters. They were also more familiar with the jungles of Vietnam than the US was – this gave the Viet Cong a huge advantage. They attacked in ambushes, set up booby-traps and moved around underground tunnels. General Westmoreland would again request more US troops that Johnson approved. Between 1966 and 1967, US forces serving in Vietnam rose drastically from 190,000 to 535,000.

On January 30, 1968, the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong orchestrated a surprise attack on South Vietnamese cities and towns known as the “Tet offensive. ” It is estimated that 67,000 Viet Cong took part in the offensive. An estimated 40,000 were killed. The US was able to regain the cities and towns lost in the offensive. Although this was a US victory, it proved to the president and the American people that the enemy was better equipped and more powerful than previously believed. After the Tet Offensive and growing disapproval of the war at home, Johnson decided not to escalate the war any further.

In January 1969, Richard Nixon became president of the United States. Nixon was favorable among the American people for his promises to de-escalate and end the Vietnam War. US troop withdrawals began in the summer of 1969. However, it was not until January 27, 1973 that a peace treaty was finally reached. Nixon suspended all military operations in Vietnam and the remaining US troops left in March 1973. Fighting however would continue between the North Vietnamese and the South Vietnamese until April 30, 1975 when South Vietnam surrendered to the North.

On July 2, 1976, Vietnam was reunified under a communist government. Vietnam was a war the US felt compelled to fight. The US thought if Vietnam was overthrown and became communist that it would be only a matter of time until surrounding countries would fall victim to communism. However, after a ten-year commitment in Vietnam, the US was unable to achieve victory. Why? The US forces were fighting in unfamiliar jungles whereas the Viet Cong were well adapted. The Viet Cong were also well supplied by both China and the Soviet Union.

The US could not halt the flow of supplies and replacement fighters without the possibility of bringing either China and/or the Soviet Union into the war. Viet Cong used ambushes and booby traps against unsuspecting US troops. Nuclear weapons were out of the question as that would have definitely led to prompt and severe retaliation from probably both China and the Soviet Union. Unpopularity at home in America along with anti-war and civil rights protests eventually led to the ending of US involvement in Vietnam.

Malayan Emergency, 1948-1960 On December 8, 1941, the Japanese invaded Malaya, which was under British rule at the time. Although British forces fought hard against the invaders, large numbers of Japanese troops eventually forced the British to retreat and surrender in early February 1942. The Japanese occupation of Malaya lasted from 1942 to 1945 when they surrendered to allied forces at the end of World War II. Malaya was now faced with restoring a civil government and initiating a new constitution. However, the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM), led by Chin Peng opposed this idea.

Between 1945 and 1948, the CPM had accumulated thousands of communist fighters that were trained in jungle warfare by the British to fight against the Japanese occupation. In June 1948, the 12-year unrest began when Communist Terrorists (CTs) killed three British rubber planters. The Communist Party of Malaya then departed to rural areas and organized the Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA). They began a campaign of terror involving executing, mutilating and tormenting British and Native people aimed to panic the civilians. Britain repeatedly requested the assistance of the United States, but was turned down.

Therefore, Britain stood alone against the threat in Malaya. In the fall of 1950, 50,000 British troops were sent to Malaya. The plan of action for dealing with the current crisis was defensive: to protect all targets of economic importance. However, there were insufficient amount of soldiers to properly deal with the country’s challenges, so more were transferred in from the Kings African Rifles, the Guards Brigade and the Royal Marines. The Director of Operations in Malaya, General Sir Harold Briggs, came up with a resolution known as “the Briggs plan,” which was to isolate the insurgents from their supporters.

Under the plan, 500,000 rural Malayans and 400,000 Chinese were forced to relocate into guarded camps known as New Villages. At first, people were angry about the new arrangement however, with improved living conditions in the camps, monetary aid and given ownership of their property; they changed their initial perspective to that of happiness and satisfaction. Sir Henry Gurney, the British High Commissioner was ambushed and assassinated by the MNLA in 1951. This was a turning point in the war because the assassination has been defined as the reason the Malayans renounced the MNLA campaign.

Lieutenant-General Sir Gerald Templer succeeded Sir Henry Gurney. He was a strict and robust soldier. He called for instant actions to grant Chinese ethnic citizens the right to vote. He advanced the development of the Malayan Army. He also improved the intelligence network (Special Branch). The MNLA were allowed remission by the Malayan government in 1955 as a means of ending the emergency peacefully, but many rejected because the terms were limited in nature. Chin Peng and Tunku Abdul Rahman, the father of Malayan independence entered into negotiations. The negotiations deteriorated when Tunku turned down Peng’s requests.

As a result, the aggression proceeded more intensely but by this time, it was apparent that the MNLA’s goal of a communist Malaya proved unsuccessful. Malaya acquired independence in August 1957 but the emergency would not be conclusively over until 1960. By the end of the emergency, 6,710 insurgents had been killed with another 1,287 captured; 2,702 insurgents surrendered and another 500 gave themselves up. Malayan security forces including police suffered 1,345 casualties with another 519 commonwealth personnel lost; civilian losses were 2,478 with 810 others missing.

The emergency is estimated to have cost the British government between ? 520 million and ? 700 million. Malaya is the only successful battle of the entire Cold War. Why? The MNLA consisted of about only 8,000 insurgents. There was little outside support and British General Harold Briggs quickly implemented a resolution that isolated the insurgents from the general population. Britain gained the support of the population when they provided aid and other support. The British also wanted Malay to be an independent state whereas an MNLA overthrow would suggest a potential “puppet state” of the Soviet Union and/or China.

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