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Korean War FAQ

Copyright(C) Dongxiao Yue , 1998, All rights reserved.

1. What is the purpose of the Korean War FAQ?

To give an honest and objective view of the Korean war.
Please note: except the last question, all other answers are NOT the author's opinion, but straight summary or quotations from the references listed below. Most references are of western origin, and in each case the author gives explicit references to them. References on political issues are mostly from British. The campaign descriptions are mostly from Chinese sources, which are the only ones which can offer an overall picture of the campaigns---the plan, the strategy, the tactics, the command, the men, the weapons and the order of battles.

Main References:

  • The Korean War, by Max Hastings (with some information from Chinese side, focus on British military and diplomatic involvement, anti-communist sentiment, quite honest on issues such as POWs)
  • The Forgotten War, America in Korea, by Clay Blair (battle stories detailed at the battalion level, thoroughly researched, very frank and almost neutral on political issues)
  • Korea, The War Before Vietnam, Callum A. MacDonald  (geo-politic study based on official documents, many recently declassfied,  honest and scholarly on many political issues)
  • Korean War Almanac (very selective information, strong anti-communist sentiment)
  • Korea, The Untold Story Of The War, by Joseph C. Goulden (even more selective information,  dishonest on some key issues, very strong American thinking)
  • Chinese references

Copyright Information:

This FAQ is authored and Copyrighted by (dyue@cs.umn.edu). You may not redistribute any part of this FAQ without the explicit authorization from the author. The "official" site for this FAQ is http://centurychina.com/history/krwarfaq.html.

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2.Why did PRC send troops to Korea?

 PRC's intervention in Korea was primarily precipitated by its own security concerns. In his telegram to premier  Zhou Enlai on Oct. 13 1950, Chinese leader Mao Zedong summarized the the rationale for sending troops to repel advancing US forces: if PRC did not take the initiative, then US forces would press on China along the Yalu river, China's northeastern defense force would be pinned down, Southern Manchuria's power supply (generated from hydroelectric plants in North Korea) would be controlled by hostile forces, and the situation would resulted in the uprising of domestic and international "reactionary elements".

Furthermore, Chinese leaders had the conviction that US led western forces was trying to strangle the new China by a blockade starting from Korea and ending at Vietnam. Since a contest with US would be inevitable, it was desirable to teach the Americans a lesson as early as possible, besides, it  was far more advantageous to fight US in Korea than in the Taiwan straits or Vietnam.

Contrary to western wisdom, Soviet Union did not mastermind the Chinese participation in the war. Stalin refused to offer much  support to the Chinese. China had to pay for all its weapon purchases from USSR plus interests.

3. What was China's military objective in the Koren war?

China's objective was to keep the hostile American forces away from the Yalu river to ensure a peaceful environment for internal reconstruction. To do so, China must at least set up a buffer zone near the border in the North Korea side, it would be even better if China could drive the US forces out of North Korea or even the Korea Peninsula and stabilize the North Korea regime. Since PRC (founded on 10/1/1949) was merely one year old, it had no interests to prolong the war at the cost of its economical development.

4. Did PRC warn US/UN before it sent troops?

Yes. PRC made substantial attempt for peaceful resolution of the Korea problem through diplomatic means. Beijing repeatedly warned US not to invade North Korea through radio broadcasts after MacArthur's Inchon landing. On Oct 2 1950, two days after the ROK forces crossed the 38th parallel, Premier Zhou Enlai summoned  Pannikkar, an Indian Ambassador to China, asked him to deliver a message to the US, in which he made clear that if American forces crossed the 38th,  China would intervene. However, Truman regarded this warning as "a bald attempt to blackmail the UN". MacArthur on the other hand assured Truman that if the Chinese intervened, there would be a greatest slaughter.

On Oct. 8, 1950, the day after American troops crossed the 38th, Chairman Mao issued the order for "Chinese People's Volunteer Army" (PVA) to fight American imperialism.

5. Why did PRC send troops under the name of volunteer army?

Although the western forces in Korea were in fact commanded by US generals and ultimately the US president in a crusade to "rollback communism", they were technically a UN "police" force. To avoid officially declaring war on US, Britain, France and other UN members, China sent forces in the name of  People's Volunteer Army (PVA) instead of  PLA (People's Liberation Army).

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