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Power and Primacy

A History of Western Intervention in the Asia-Pacific

A.B. Abrams

Today the Asia-Pacific region stands on the verge of major change, with centuries of western dominated regional order being seriously challenged and quite possibly nearing its end. The emergence of a potential new order dominated by regional rather than extra-regional powers - an «Asia for the Asiatics» in the words of Japan’s pan-Asian scholars - means it is now more than ever essential to understand the history of the current western-dominated system, the full implications should it continue and the nature of the West’s intentions towards the region.

This book undertakes the task of elucidating the complex and little-known history of western intervention in the Asia-Pacific, providing information critical to understanding contemporary developments

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Chapter 7: The Outbreak of War in Korea

Extract

Chapter 7

The Outbreak of War in Korea

When one side only of a story is heard and often repeated, the human mind becomes impressed with it insensibly.1

— George Washington

Korea has been a blessing. There had to be a Korea whether here or some place in the world.2

— U.S. General James Van Fleet in 1952 on the benefits of the Korean War for the American position in the Cold War

Competing Narratives

The Korean War began on June 25, 1950, less than five years after the end of the Second World War. It was very likely the most brutal war fought since Japan’s surrender in 1945, and according to the testimony of the Supreme Commander of U.S. and UN forces General MacArthur was more brutal than the Second World War itself or any other war fought in his lifetime.3 The impacts of the Korean War continue to have significant effects today, ranging from the permanent shift it caused in the United States’ foreign policy to the shaping of the modern state identities of both Koreas. It served as a critical pretext and facilitator for the string of U.S. military bases and maintenance of military partnerships throughout the Asia-Pacific region and worldwide, setting a trend which is set to continue well into the twenty-first century, as well as continuing to define inter-Korean and Korean-American relations.

Regarding the continuing relevance of the Korean War in...

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