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The Rise and Fall of the United States Trusteeship Plan for Korea as a Peace-maintenance Scheme

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During the Second World War, the American State Department prepared a Korean trusteeship plan with a view to mitigate Great Power rivalry over Korea after Japanese defeat. To achieve this goal, the Department recommended that American leaders consult with Russian leaders to manage the joint trusteeship whilst maintaining the administrative unity of Korea. However, amid a sharp rise of threat perception over Soviet expansion and the expectation of the development of an atomic bomb, the Truman Administration delayed diplomatic consultations with the Russians after April 1945. Furthermore, due to a lack of proper co-ordination in Washington's bureaucracy, a valuable opportunity for diplomatic compromise on Korean trusteeship was missed when Harry Hopkins visited Moscow in late May 1945. Although the Potsdam Conference offered the final opportunity for compromise, James Byrnes chose to pursue a unilateralist policy to secure a separate zone of occupation below the 38th parallel with Truman's full support. This article examines American decision-making and diplomacy whilst taking into account its leaders' threat perception as well as their confidence derived from the atomic monopoly.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2013

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