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The Shifting Strategic Value of Korea, 1942-1950 Masao Okonogi KEIO UNIVERSITY IF an analogy may be made between the situation in Europe after World War II and that after the Napoleonic Wars, as George Kennan and Ernest May have, then a similar analogy may be made between the situation in East Asia after the last world war and that after the Sino-Japanese War, for the collapse of the Japanese empire created a tremendous power vacuum running from Manchuria through Korea to Japan proper that was very similar to the vacuum created by the defeat of the Ch'ing dynasty in the Sino-Japanese War.1 The cold war in postwar East Asia, in this sense, is similar in nature to that in Europe, on the one hand, while it is historically similar to the time period from the Sino-Japanese War to the Russo-Japanese War, on the other. Ironically, after World War II the U.S., by overthrowing Japanese militarism, occupying Japan and south Korea, and committing itself to the independence of Korea, had no alternative but to succeed to the geopolitical position once occupied by Japan. This position was taken without any firm strategic plan. As Louis Halle has pointed out, U.S. succession to this position implied that the more the U.S. became involved with the security of this region, the more enmity would grow between the U.S. and Japan's traditional adversaries.2 To borrow the words of George Kennan, who analyzed the confrontation between Japan and Russia in 1.See George F. Kennan, "The Passing of the Cold War," lecture, Tokyo, June 19, 1964, Amerika Gaiko no kihon mondai (Tokyo, 1965), p. 6; Ernest R. May "Lessons" of the Past: The Use andMisuse ofHistory in American Foreign Policy (New York, 1973), p. 16. In accuracy, it should be noted that the condition brought forth in East Asia after the Sino-Japanese war stemmed from the opening of Korea, because its opening per se suggested the appearance of a power vacuum. 2.Louis J. Halle, The Cold War as History (London: 1970), pp. 191-192. 50OKONOGI the early twentieth century: "It was an inevitable development, at that point in history," for the U.S. and the Soviet Union "to encounter and be confronted with each other in one form or another, and to settle their spheres of influence in Manchuria and Korea."3 Our concern here is with the asymmetric nature of the cold war in Europe and Asia. However, this is a very difficult question. First of all, this asymmetric feature is closely associated with the existence of domestic conflict in the areas concerned. As typically illustrated in Korea, China, and Indochina, after World War II in Asia there existed vertical domestic conflicts differing from the horizontal ones between the West and the East. Because of the interaction of these two types of conflict, the existence of domestic power struggles played a considerable role in both the internalization of international conflict and the internationalization of domestic confrontations. Second, the asymmetry is also related to a geographical factor. It is well known that the Soviet Union has traditionally perceived its own security in spacial terms while the United States has tended to view its security in institutional terms.4 Nevertheless, this antagonism in security concepts did not develop into a hot war in the centers of Europe or the Asian continent because the geographic conditions were lacking. The exceptions were the two peninsulas thrusting out from the Asian continent, Korea and Indochina, where there remained room for both the U.S. and the Soviet Union to intervene directly or indirectly . In addition, these areas were the strategic points from which it was possible to exercise influence on the heart of the continent from its circumference, and to advance from the continent out to sea. In this context , it was Greece, despite the intense conflict over Berlin, that had the potential for transforming the cold war into a hot war in Europe. This consideration is quite suggestive.5 I have already presented a dissertation that deals with the first point.6 Thus, this discussion will focus on the second point, how the U...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1529
Print ISSN
0145-840X
Pages
pp. 49-80
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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