In discussion with a group of Chinese military officers in Beijing in June, I asked whether North Korea’s Kim Jong Un could drag China and the U.S. into war. One bright young PLA colonel responded: absolutely not. I then asked whether this had ever happened before. He thought not—but then several of his colleagues reminded him of what happened in 1950.Sponsored Links
In that case, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, launched a surprise attack on South Korea. His troops drove down the Korean Peninsula to the point that they were on the verge of reunifying the country. At the last minute, the U.S. came to South Korea’s rescue. An American division under the command of General Douglas MacArthur pushed North Korean troops back up the peninsula. MacArthur’s troops crossed the 38th parallel (which had been the dividing line between the North and South at the end of World War II) and were rapidly approaching the Yalu River that marks the border between Korea and China. But then, to MacArthur’s amazement, China attacked. A peasant army beat American troops back down the roads that they had come up, back down to the 38th parallel, where the U.S. was forced to settle for an armistice.