Following the Second World War in which the United States played a key role, there was a significant change in the nation’s foreign policy in the East Asia. While the post-war period was largely peaceful, America’s anticommunism policy prompted her to enter the Korean’ war to contain the spread of communism. The defeat and subsequent surrender of Japan prompted the US to put the East Asian country under its control to help rebuild it. This writer argues that internal politics in Korea and Japan, as well as events in China played a key role in shaping the US foreign policy in the East Asian regions after the Second World War.
US Policy in Korea
Following the end of the Second World War, there were tensions between the Soviet Union which believed in communism, and the United states which was essentially anticommunist. The US was wary that the Soviet Union would spread communism to others countries. As a consequence, the US policy centered on containing communism. This policy resulted in the US entering the Korean War when the Soviet Union controlled North Korea and the US feared that it would extend its control to the south (POINT 1). The US invasion of Korea was necessitated by the Soviet Unions explosion of an atomic bomb in 1949, which made the US grow anxious that the Soviet Union had unanticipated military prowess which needed to be contained before the communist power conquered many more parts of the world and spread their philosophy.
The US and the Soviet Union agreed to divide Korea into the north and south, leading to a Democratic People's Republic (North Korea) led by Kim Il Sung and the Republic of Korea, led by Syngman Rhee, a nationalist exile. Colonialism played a key role in shaping the US policy in Korea, especially because prior to the Soviet Union invasion of Korea, the East Asian nation was under Japan’s colonial rule (POINT 2). During Japan’s rule over Korea, there was no threat of the spread of communism until the Soviet Union moved in.
When in June 1950 North Korea forces attacked the south, the Korea war broke out and the USA joined to defend South Korea against the Soviet-backed North (POINT 3). This essentially marked a change (reversal) of America’s foreign policy on Korea. This is because the US had started withdrawing its forces from Korea in 1948, although it supported the Syngman-led South Korea. The US actions were however necessitated by her desire to quell the spread of communism to South Korea and other areas, a goal which would be achieved by supporting the South against the communist, Soviet-backed North.
Us Policy in Japan
Following the Second World War, the US foreign policy in Japan was founded on helping the country recover from the impacts of the deleterious war and build democracy (POINT 4). This was unlike in Korea where the US foreign policy was driven by the desire to contain communism by ensuring that the Soviet Union did not continue with its victories. Immediately after Japan suffered defeat in the hands of the US and the Allies, it was imperative to help the shattered country to recover. To this end, the US government and other Allies put Japan under control with a view to helping the East Asian country regain economic stability, a democratic, people-owned government, and renunciation of war and commitment to a peaceful co-existence with other nations of the world.
While the US allowed the Japanese emperor to stay on, President Truman appointed General Douglas MacArthur to lead the Japanese occupation. The US realized that Japan was a strategic country as far global peace was concerned, and engaging with it (rather than punishing it with sanctions and restrictions) would go a long way in avoiding a repeat of a devastating global war, as had happened with Germany after the First World War (POINT 5). The security agreements between the US saw America establish a navy, army and air force bases in Japan with a view to defending the East Asian nation whose new constitution made it hard to defend itself. Ever since, Japan and the US have been key allies in key issues such as the war on terror, economics and politics among others, pointing to the success of the US policy in the East Asian nation. However, over time the US demonstrated a slight foreign policy change when it started increasing Japan’s own territorial control by giving back islands that it (US) initially controlled (POINT 6). The US foreign policy in the Japan was slightly complicated by reports of US troops molesting Japanese citizens, leading to withdrawal of significant numbers of them. Nonetheless, the two nations remain close allies and Japan’s rise to economic prosperity can be attributed to the US foreign policy.
The Role of China
Besides the internal politics in Korea and Japan, events in China played a key role in shaping the US policy in the two Asian nations. Most important was the 1949 revolution that saw Mao Zedong and his Communist Party ascent to power, as well as the leader’s subsequent cooperation with the Soviet Union (POINT 7). As already mentioned, the US was determined to contain the spread of communism both internally and externally. US policy in Korea, for example, was designed so that America would support South Korea against the Soviet-backed North in line with US containment policy. Korea and Japan were also strategic points that the US used to fight communist aggression from China and the Soviet Union (POINT 8). The significance of the events in China on the US policy was underlined by the sharp criticism directed towards President Truman following the cooperation between China and the Soviet Union. The critics blamed the government for failing to fully support Chinese nationalists who were fighting against communism in China. Effectively, cultivating good relationships with Japan and Korea was essential as it gave the US an opportunity to advance its anticommunism agenda, particularly against China and the Soviet Union. The rise to power of a communist regime in China palpably put the US in a dilemma as some advisors urged the government to support the government, while others warned that doing so would amount to a compromise on the nation’s (America’s) anticommunism policy.
In conclusion, a variety of factors interacted to affect the US policy in Korea and Japan after the second world. US policy in Korea was fundamental in America’s anticommunism efforts as it helped South Korea fight the Soviet-backed North. In Japan, it was essential to help the country recover from the devastating consequences of their defeat, besides being a strategic location to fight communist aggression. Events in China greatly affected how the US related with these two East Asian nations, as discussed in this paper.