Stalin’s miscalculation 63 years agoOn June 27, 1950, three men were having lunch at the Stockholm Restaurant on Long Island, New York. UN Secretary General Trygve Lie was meeting with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Ernest Gross and the Soviet delegate, Jacob Malik. As they were wrapping up the meal, Lie asked Malik if he would end his boycott of the Security Council and attend the meeting later. Malik shook his head and said, “No, I will not go there.” A Security Council meeting was called at 2 p.m., and Resolution 83 urging UN member nations to provide military assistance for South Korea was passed.
The scene remains a mystery after 63 years. The Soviet Union was a permanent member of the UN Security Council with veto power. If the Soviet Union had exercised its veto, the participation of the UN forces could have been blocked or delayed. But the Soviet Union didn’t attend the Security Council meetings where three resolutions on the 1950-53 Korean War led by the U.S. were passed. The Soviet Union had been boycotting the meeting, demanding that the seat of China occupied by Taiwan be transferred to the People’s Republic of China. But it’s still hard to understand the Soviet Union’s absence when the decision of the UN military involvement determined the fate of the Korean War.
It is generally accepted that it was a calculated scenario by Soviet leader Josef Stalin. As America established the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) against the communization of the Eastern European bloc, the Soviet Union tried to divert U.S. forces by having them participate in the Korean War. If America got involved, China would have no choice but to participate as well. It was also an opportunity to exhaust the energy of Chinese forces. Stalin hoped to kill two birds with one stone. The situation unfolded as Stalin had planned. The People’s Army advanced to the Nakdong River within two months. Even Task Force Smith, a World War II legend, was crushed in the first battle against the People’s Army in Osan on July 5.
But the tide of the war turned when the UN Forces, a coalition of 16 countries, entered. The North Korean and Chinese forces had underestimated the power of the forces. The 27th British Commonwealth Division of Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and British forces, blocked off Chinese forces - ten times in number - in the Battles of Gapyeong twice in 1951. Ethiopia sent 3,518 royal guards, who didn’t lose a single one of their 253 battles. Turkey sent 14,936 soldiers - the fourth largest force after the U.S., the U.K. and Canada - and accomplished great success in battles against the Chinese forces in the Iron Triangle in Gangwon Province.
No one can be sure what Stalin had in mind. But as I researched for the feature series marking the 60th anniversary of the armistice, I could confirm that his calculations have been proven wrong all over the world. A Korean War memorial can be found in each capital of the sixteen countries that participated in the war. The UN protected Korea, which became the 13th largest economy in the world. Stalin may be in hell regretting his miscalculation 63 years ago.
* The author is a New York correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by JUNG KYUNG-MIN