FEBRUARY 2, 1951
HYDE PARK, Thursday—I have come to the conclusion that the nation as a whole has a very short memory. A number of people lately have asked me how we happened to be in Korea and why did the President start the war there? These seem to me almost impossible questions.
Anyone remembering back to the last war should know that the Japanese occupied Korea, and when we conquered Japan, we took the country over from them. They should also remember that Russia came into the war as our ally against Japan some months earlier than had been expected. It was originally understood at Yalta that the Soviets could not fight on two fronts, but would come in just as soon as the war in Europe ended. Instead of that they came in ahead of schedule, perhaps because they felt they must guard their Asiatic interests.
In any case, when we took over Korea, Russia quite naturally claimed a part of the responsibility and an arbitrary line was set up—the 38th parallel. North of that was Soviet responsibility, south of that was ours.
The United Nations was asked by us to supervise a free election in South Korea. Syngman Rhee, while out of the country during the Japanese occupation, had been constantly agitating for Korean freedom. Since this was the first election participated in by the Korean people, it is perhaps understandable that they voted for this man whom they considered the leader for Korean independence. I am told that under him some steps toward a free and democratic government have been taken.
On the other hand, the Soviets refused to allow any interference and set about militarizing the North Koreans. When they were ready, they invaded South Korea. The South Koreans resisted. Immediately our President asked the United Nations to take action. It did so promptly, and the call went out for volunteers to enforce the U.N. stand against aggression.
This is the history of how we happen to be in Korea and how this whole situation came about. And this is why, having branded the North Koreans as aggressors, we also had to brand the Chinese Communists as aggressors. Whether you are a big or a small nation, aggression must be called by the same name.
If the Russians had not been the ones responsible for the North Korean's preparation, one might hope that the Chinese had suffered anxiety in seeing us so near their Manchurian border. But I am quite sure the Soviets know that we are a peace-loving people and the Chinese Communists know it, too. Had they listened to what we said—and believed us—they would know that we had no intention of invading China, that we are only anxious to see Korea a peaceful country with a government the people themselves have chosen.
That is our aim today and the aim of the U.N. I hope it can be carried out.