CSR 2020: “One Arch Enemy” or “Two-Fold Danger”

The Failed Alliance in Non-Communist Asia

Hao Chen

Hao Chen is a second-year SAIS M.A. student concentrating in China studies with a minor in Korea studies. His research interests span modern Chinese history, Chinese politics, and Taiwan studies. Hao earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Peking (Beijing) University in China and also studied at National Taiwan University.

Introduction

This research examines the formation of an Asian anti-communist alliance, promoted by the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the Republic of Korea during the early Cold War period. By analyzing the issues that triggered significant conflicts between non-communist and anti-communist Asian countries, the paper argues that the ideas of national independence and liberation were widespread, so much so that anti-imperialism and decolonization were interwoven with the topic of communism in discussions of alignment. This led to widely divergent views among non-communist Asian countries about existing dangers, the severity of these dangers, and creating national policy to combat these possible threats. Due to their diverse historical experiences, non-communist countries held considerably different views about the nature of their overarching concern, independence. This caused contradictions between aggressively anti-communist states, namely Taiwan and South Korea, created tensions between these two normally cooperative allies, and decreased the chances of building a multilateral alliance. Deviating from the U.S.-centric view of the non-communist world, this paper examines the ideas circulated among these states beyond the binary framework of Cold War confrontation and tries to analyze the transnational cultural background in a broader context.

Setting the Stage

By the time World War II ended in 1945, China had supported Korea’s movement to achieve independence from Japan for over two decades, beginning in the Sun Yat-sen era.[1] The Republic of China (ROC) established a close patron-client relationship with the exiled Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea (led by Kim Koo (김구)), during the war. With the Japanese defeat, many observers expected that a peaceful and prosperous China, as well as a united and independent Korea, could be established; however, the outbreak of the Chinese Civil War and Korea’s national division soon shattered this dream. The world order had shifted dramatically in the context of the Cold War confrontation, and their domestic situations had become interwoven with the strategic landscape in a broader sense.

At that time, US policymakers were sharply divided over how to evaluate China’s strategic value. In light of the disastrous failure of Chiang Kai-shek’s military actions against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), diplomats such as George Kennan raised the idea of abandoning Chiang; in February 1948, Kennan argued that the United States should “liquidate as rapidly as possible our unsound commitments in China and recover, vis-à-vis that country, a position of detachment and freedom of action.”[2] On the Korean peninsula, the ROK government in the south faced a tremendous threat from its communist counterpart to the north; despite this danger, the United States shifted its attention to Japan and the Philippines to avoid unnecessary confrontations with the Soviet Union and its Asian communist allies.[3] In order to maintain the strategic status quo, the United States added the objective of “terminating the military commitment” in Korea and began to withdraw its troops, opting for “a middle course” to “establish within practicable and feasible limits conditions of support.”[4]

In 1949, the ROC and ROK briefly considered forming a military alliance; however, due to their divergent interests and a lack of US support, the proposal was unfinished by the time of the Korean War and indefinitely suspended thereafter. The idea of forming a regional anti-communist alliance re-emerged in Seoul and Taipei after the war’s end, but with the guarantee of the US-ROK military treaty, Korean policymakers did not see it as essential to their national security. Instead, a civil organization called the Asian Peoples’ Anti-Communist League (APACL) was founded in 1954. From 1955 onward, ROK President Syngman Rhee tried to forge a mutual defense pact among “free Asia,” particularly with Taiwan and South Vietnam.[5] Rhee’s efforts ultimately failed in spite of escalating confrontation across the Iron Curtain.

Since the end of the Cold War in the 1990s, many scholars have paid renewed attention to Cold War historical research. This interest comes primarily from access to new archival records, especially from the former communist bloc countries. As for the anti- or non-communist world, the existing works overwhelmingly focus on the United States, Europe, or other anti-communist allies’ relations vis-à-vis the United States—or how US policies affected their own. The study of interactions solely between non-communist Asian countries remains a relatively neglected subfield.

Existing works in the Korean and Chinese literature have already established a body of knowledge on the formation of anti-communist unions in the Asia-Pacific region. Many scholars focus on the Pacific Pact discussed by President Elpidio Quirino of the Philippines, Chiang Kai-shek, and Syngman Rhee in 1949;[6] some extend to the APACL and its founding in 1953.[7] These pieces tend to emphasize the impact of American involvement, yet few scholars have explored the history from different lenses or examine other factors, including the attitudes among other regional players and tensions between the two anti-communist partners—the ROK and ROC. Moreover, most of the literature views the issue as a simple military calculation and fails to position the issue in a broader historical context or to flesh out the issues surrounding neutrality and Japan’s role in the alliance.

A New Perspective on the Historical Record

In recent years, several innovative studies look at relevant historical facts through new lenses. Kai He and Huiyun Feng build on previous scholarship by introducing a prospect-threat alliance model. They combine prospect theory from political psychology and a balance of threat theory from political science.[8] Through this model, policymakers calculate trade-offs between freedom of action and assistance of greater powers, and then choose to form multilateral or bilateral alliances based on their assessment. High threats frame politicians in a domain of losses, and multilateral alliances tend to be favorable, while low threats position leaders in a domain of gains, which leads to the opposite outcome. Their research provides a significant alternative to rationalism and constructivism in the realm of international relations to answer a key question—Why is there no NATO in Asia? Charles Kraus’s paper uses the correspondence between Syngman Rhee and Choi Duk-shin from 1955-1957 about a potential military alliance in East and Southeast Asia to argue that Rhee’s double-faceted worldview on both the Cold War and decolonization inhibited efforts to cooperate with other countries.[9] Kraus’s work calls for an integration of the Cold War and decolonization, contending that Rhee regarded these two topics similar in significance. Torben Gülstorff focuses on globally operating anti-communist networks, including the APACL.[10] By examining these organizations, Gülstorff illustrates the globally organized anti-communist movement and pursues a historical view of the international Cold War. Internationalized research provides an opportunity to rethink the Cold War and its global and transnational impact.

To fill a gap in the existing research, and taking inspiration from the works mentioned above, this paper re-evaluates the relations among anti-communist and non-communist Asian states and their efforts to create an alignment. Through analysis of the historical facts, it reconsiders topics of national liberation, anti-imperialism, and decolonization, emphasizing the distinction between non-communism and anti-communism and the differing perspectives of the two anti-communist allies of Taiwan and South Korea. The three threads of national liberation, anti-imperialism, and decolonization were intertwined in policies dealing with communism. In the minds of ROC and ROK policymakers, the perceived dangers were pluralized and interwoven, and their views of these intricately arranged threats often failed to accord with each other, thereby decreasing the incentive to forge a multilateral alliance. This analysis also moves the discussion away from a Washington-centric perspective, the absolute Cold War dichotomy of communism versus capitalism, and the preconception of a closely cooperative relationship among nations in the same bloc.

United in Anti-Communism

At the beginning of 1949, both domestic politics and US policies compelled Chiang Kai-Shek and Syngman Rhee to consider potential cooperation. As ROC Minister of Foreign Affairs Vi Kyuin Wellington Koo (Gu Weijun 顾维钧) later recalled, while Korea was very enthusiastic about a potential Pacific Pact suggested after the UN meeting in January 1949, other countries were uninterested.[11] In the context of NATO’s creation in early 1949, nations all over the world were having conversations about regional unions; Turkey and Greece lobbied for a Mediterranean treaty, and Australia and New Zealand proposed a Southeast Asian treaty. At the New Delhi Convention, the Philippine representative Romulo presented the idea of an Asian bloc.[12] Approximately two months later, President Quirino of the Philippines shared his vision of a Pacific Pact, and Syngman Rhee responded positively.[13] In June 1949, the soon-to-be ROC ambassador to Korea Shao Yulin (邵毓麟)[14] proposed his East-Asian policy and persuaded Chiang to ally with other anti-communist countries.[15]

On July 10, 1949, Chiang Kai-shek traveled to the Philippine summer capital of Baguio, to discuss with Quirino “how to organize and mobilize Far East countries to unite.”[16] They agreed to invite Rhee to build an anti-communist alliance collectively.[17] South Korea responded positively to the Chiang-Quirino proposal and invited Chiang to visit Korea.[18] After arriving in Korea at the coastal city of Chinhae (진해), Chiang released a statement claiming the visit would include discussions about organizing an anti-communist league among East Asian nations.[19] It was explained as an attempt to encourage more American aid to the regional quasi-allies. At that time, Rhee and Quirino both enjoyed closer relations with America than Chiang did, and the United States saw this alliance proposal as a strategy of Chiang to use the two leaders to bolster relations with Washington.[20] Rhee also tried to secure America’s written commitment to a collective regional security system under the leadership of the United States.[21] As for Quirino, US policy-makers thought he “[had] fallen in with Chiang’s (and Rhee’s) flattering suggestion…not only from genuine concern for Philippine security, but because his emergence as an Asian leader would improve his political prospects.”[22]

Little progress toward a mutual alignment was made after the 1949 meetings. Noting the Americans’ lack of support for both the Pacific Pact and Chiang’s regime, the Philippines altered the course formulated at the Baguio meeting and prepared for a union that should be “publicized as non-communist rather than anti-communist.”[23] South Korea and the ROC carried out some military cooperation: Rhee asked for weapons assistance, while Chiang aimed at utilizing Korean territory to support air force attacks against the CCP.[24] Though the US attitude served to push the two anti-communist leaders closer, the alignment treaty was never negotiated. Observers such as ambassador to Korea John Muccio argued that Rhee did not want to be directly involved in the Chinese civil war and thus antagonize the CCP.[25] The fact that Chiang and Rhee faced different enemies on different stages, with Chiang’s defeat and Rhee’s war not yet begun, further limited incentives for forming a formal alliance.

The year 1950 was a watershed moment for the ROC and the ROK, as the Korean War fundamentally transformed their international environment. The United States modified its previous non-involvement policy toward Asia and significantly increased assistance to the regional partners. Rhee’s and Chiang’s different positions on the communist threat and national division further strained the relationship between them. When the Korean War entered a stalemate in mid-1951, the previous discussions about the Pacific Pact continued.[26] In 1952 and 1953, several Korean congressmen called for the signing of a military alignment with Taiwan and contacted the ROC ambassador, Wang Dongyuan (王东原).[27] Before Rhee’s visit to Taipei in November 1953, Taiwan’s Secretary-General of the Presidential Office Wang Shijie (王世杰) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs drafted a Pacific Mutual Assistance Treaty, which included the article of mutual defense.[28] Nevertheless, the Korean government did not express great enthusiasm for signing such a deal. Instead, Rhee wanted a people-to-people union, especially given the fact that South Korea understood the US stance on Korea’s military affairs as a curb on aggressive actions against North Korea; additionally, the US-ROK mutual defense treaty had just successfully concluded.[29]

What Rhee proposed eventually ended up with the Asian Peoples’ Anti-Communist League (APACL). At the time, South Korea lacked connections with Southeast Asia; therefore, the ROC Foreign Minister, George Kung-chao Yeh (叶公超), suggested his Korean counterpart send an ambassador-at-large to contact those countries.[30] Korea sent several officials and groups to Southeast Asia from December 1953 to April 1954, including Bum Young Lee (이범영) and Choi Duk Shin (최덕신). The Korean government also asked Taiwan to mobilize overseas Chinese to support the initiative.[31] On June 15, 1954, the first APACL conference was held in Chinhae, Korea. Twenty-two delegates from eight East Asian states, Southeast Asian states, and other territories came to the conference,[32] to discuss the organization’s principles and objectives.[33] The APACL consisted of anti-communist societies from different countries; although they were connected with governmental officials of their respective states,[34] these groups were able to maintain unofficial and nongovernmental status, which was exactly why those Southeast Asian nations agreed to participate.[35] Moreover, most participants were overseas Chinese, so the ROC played a prominent role.[36] ROC domination of the APACL contributed to ongoing friction between the ROC and ROK within the organization itself.

Rhee promoted potential military collaboration in 1955, particularly with Taiwan and South Vietnam. In addition to the existing threat from North Korea and its allies, Japan’s political situation was a legitimate concern for South Korea. In December 1954, Ichiro Hatoyama (鳩山一郎) began his two-year tenure as Prime Minister, and fundamentally shifted the foreign policy of his predecessor (Shigeru Yoshida, 吉田茂). Hatoyama intended to improve Japan’s relations with communist states, thereby helping Japan return to the international community. Japan tried to repair its relationship with the PRC by increasing bilateral trade and people-to-people exchanges. After negotiation, Japan and the Soviet Union signed the Soviet–Japanese Joint Declaration in 1956 and normalized diplomatic relations. Japan attained UN membership after the Soviet Union pledged to support it. As the resumption of trade contacts considerably improved the Japan-North Korea relationship, South Korea’s distrust of Japan grew exponentially, and bilateral negotiations between the two countries collapsed.[37]

In November 1955, the Korean ambassador sent a letter to George Kung-chao Yeh, saying that South Korea would be willing to ally with Taiwan militarily if Taiwan pledged to maintain a distance from Japan.[38] In April 1956, Rhee again ordered his aide Choi Duk-shin to travel to Southeast Asia. Rhee reported, “Sentiment is growing in favor of a mutual defense pact being concluded among Vietnam, Formosa [Taiwan], and Korea.”[39] After settling in Saigon, Choi was able to connect with different states’ personnel in the capital and cultivate cordial relationships with them. There was some progress in terms of military exchange with South Vietnam,[40] but the Vietnamese government refused to sign a military alliance. Disappointed by both the Vietnamese and the American ambassador, Rhee ordered Choi in June 1956 to cease lobbying South Vietnam for the creation of a defense pact in June 1956.[41] After that point, Rhee and Choi focused on promoting substantive connections among the anti-communist partners rather than formal alignment. The ultimate failure of the proposal indicated how severe the divergences actually were, even though all actors were in favor of a free Asia— and it is vital to examine these differences. As detailed above, the early period of the Cold War in Asia witnessed several attempts to forge an anti-communist alliance. Although American policies influenced certain countries, differences among regional actors were the primary reason for the failure to form an alliance. In analyzing their strategies, it is necessary to dig into national ideologies and practical objectives, including national liberation and independence, anti-imperialism, and decolonization. Particular idiosyncrasies and historical grievances heavily influenced each country’s objectives.

Anti-Communist ROC and ROK: Interwoven Ideologies

The two firmly anti-communist parties also upheld the ideologies of anti-imperialism and de-colonialization. Although the existing literature commonly asserts that exchanges between Chiang, Quirino, and Rhee were the starting point of the proposed Asia-Pacific alliance, this paper argues that the origins lie deeper, in earlier notions of anti-imperialism and independence before the war. The ideological views of the ROC government can be traced back to the founding father Sun Yat-sen’s “Great Asianism” (大亚洲主义),[42] which proposed building a united region. Sun argued that all oppressed Asian nations should unite and connect, calling for a culture of Dabuping (打不平, or helping victims of injustice). He maintained that Asia was the source of human culture, unjustly oppressed by imperialists in modern history. Japan’s prosperity boosted Asian people’s confidence and hope. Hence, China and Japan were leading powers to launch united movements in Asia. Sun even tried to connect with the Japanese government to create a “Greater Asian League.”[43]

Chiang Kai-shek inherited Sun’s ideology and enshrined it as the KMT’s fundamental guide. His Asian policy was reflected in China’s assistance to the Korean independence movement, India, and Vietnam during WWII. China was able to play a world-class leadership role in World War II, especially in maintaining stability in Asia (according to the post-war blueprint), thereby encouraging China to view itself as a leading power.[44] For instance, in 1947, although Chiang had a limited relationship with Rhee, Chiang assisted when Rhee had to travel back to Seoul due to conflicts with the US military government in Korea.[45] Chiang invited Rhee to Shanghai, met him for the first time, and sent him to Korea using a personal airplane. Chiang told Rhee he would take responsibility for Korea’s independence in order to carry out the ideas of the party,[46] showing that the origins of the later cooperation were far more than an extemporaneous situation.

The original purpose of aligning the Asian nations, as indicated in Sun’s “Greater Asianism,” was anti-imperialism, but anti-communism was later added into ROC policy due to the ROC’s domestic rivalry with the CCP. More importantly, the relationship between anti-communism and anti-imperialism was intertwined. The KMT viewed the CCP’s occupation of Mainland China as a Soviet invasion, so the struggle was twofold—anti-CCP as well as resistant to the USSR.[47] The perception that Asia was the preferred global target of communism served to intertwine its anti-communist policy and strict “Asia first” strategy.[48] Chiang also nursed grievances towards European and American imperialism. After signing the joint declaration with Quirino in 1949, Chiang thanked God for blessing the Eastern states so that they could unite and not be bullied by the West.[49] When Chiang encountered US and British opposition to the proposed alliance, he furiously criticized it as a white people’s traditional policy, which would never allow Asia to have a united organization.[50] He felt that imperialists wanted to enslave “yellows” and make Asia their colony forever.[51] Thus, Chiang believed not only in fighting for China’s freedom and independence, but in the liberation of other Eastern nations as well; this was his guiding focus when he was dealing with foreign affairs. The APACL envisioned itself as an alternative to the Non-Aligned Movement, although others saw the organization as against the European colonial powers and the United States.[52]

After several decades as a Japanese colony, the Republic of Korea viewed Japan in terms of anti-imperialism and de-colonialization. Since the gradual erosion of Korean sovereignty and its final annexation in 1910, Korean nationalist thinkers had ceaselessly promoted the idea of national independence; the 1919 March First Movement spread the idea of independence across the entire nation. As a result, Koreans’ attitudes toward Japan were unique in the Cold War era. As an anti-Japanese leader, Rhee advocated Korean sovereignty after fighting the Japanese invasion and colonization for half a century. The views in his early book were maintained throughout his whole political career: “The tens of thousands of words ultimately boil down to this one idea—independence.”[53] The defeat of Japan in the war did not diminish the grievances of Rhee and the Korean people. In contrast with Chiang, who conflated anti-communism with national independence, Rhee believed that “the danger is two-fold: the Communist threat on one side and Japan’s rapid expansion on the other.”[54] In his mind, both Japanese imperialism and Korean communism threatened the independence of Korea; countering these two threats was his definition of the Cold War struggle.

Conflicts between the Two Anti-Communist States

Although the two anti-communist leaders believed genuinely in their missions of protecting national independence and fighting against communism, one can hardly conclude that they were of the same mind. In fact, their different viewpoints on identifying enemies and prioritizing degrees of severity contributed to the conflicts and disagreements not only between non-communist and anti-communist nations, but, more importantly, between the two anti-communist parties. The essential issue was Japan.

The KMT’s relationship with Japan was complicated. Japan’s invasion of China left deep enmity between the two countries, but the KMT’s early revolution was largely supported by the Japanese, and many KMT leaders were educated in Japan. Sun Yat-sen had deep connections with Japanese society, and Japan was his base for establishing political parties and organizing revolutions. The aforementioned “Great Asianism” of Sun Yat-sen argued for Japan’s leadership role in Asian revitalization and called for a united Asia led by Japan and China. After retreating to Taiwan, anti-communism was foremost in Chiang’s mind, and he tried to establish Japan as a member of the anti-communist free world. Chiang wanted to quickly normalize the ROC-Japan relationship for the sake of further cooperation. When Chiang implemented the “rendering good for evil” policy and did not demand reparations from Japan, he said, “We must avoid adopting the measure of demanding a large amount of reparation and weakening Japan. For Asia’s stability, we must make Japan a powerful anti-communist state.”[55] His adviser Shao Yulin concluded that policy toward Japan would be developing future cooperation on anti-communism and resisting Russia, and those old scores, namely Japan’s responsibilities in WWII, could be written off.[56] From Chiang’s perspective, Japan should be included in the prospective anti-communist union. The CCP criticized this approach as conspiring with Japanese “reactionaries.”[57]

Few regional leaders shared Chiang’s attitude towards Japan, particularly South Korea. South Korea was extremely doubtful about Japan’s economic revival, remilitarization, and increasing political participation in the international arena. Rhee deeply believed that Japanese imperialism was preparing for the domination of Asia after Japan recovered from its postwar destruction.[58] The United States supported Japan’s resurgence and intended to make Japan the center of Asian policy after WWII, alarming South Korea. Rhee was suspicious of the peace-making process led by the United States in 1950 and said, “We are struggling with the pro-Japan Americans.”[59] Rhee viewed persuading prospective regional anti-communist allies of the danger posed by Japan as more important than trying to convince the patron ally, because “Americans [had] forgotten the danger of Japan.” Therefore, South Korea worked to make its allies realize Japan’s evil nature. When Rhee visited Taipei in 1953, his foreign minister Byeon Yeong-tae (변영태) responded to his counterpart Kung-chao Yeh’s suggestion that South Korea normalize its relationship with Japan that “being cunning and opportunist has become a second nature to the Japanese, and they will inevitably become invaders.”[60] In South Vietnam, Rhee focused on educating the Vietnamese to help them “fully understand what Japan is after,”[61] especially Japan’s economic ambition beneath the trading relationship. South Korea emphasized that Japan was seizing the natural resources of Asia and dominating technology, and “the next step for economic domination and military supremacy is the political conquest,”[62] which was “nothing more than the old Asian ‘Co-prosperity-sphere’ under a new name.”[63]

South Korea’s aversion to Japan was aggravated by Rhee’s anti-communist sentiments. Since Japan pragmatically tried to engage with the Soviet Union, the PRC, North Korea, and other communist countries, it was “clearly not anti-communistic in its attitude,”[64] and was even “certainly pro-communist and gradually entering the Red camp.”[65] As these two dangers merged in Rhee’s thinking, he felt that the Japanese were cooperating with communist powers to invade free Asia. If Chiang and other leaders believed Moscow was cooperating with Beijing to expand in the region, Rhee wanted to add Tokyo to this axis.[66] Therefore, he wanted the alignment South Korea proposed to exclude Japan absolutely, and also target Japanese imperialism outside of communism: “This twofold threat—of Communist or Japanese dominance, or both—can be met through the medium of collective security.”[67]

When the “pro-Japan” ROC encountered the determinedly anti-Japan ROK, predictable frictions complicated the mutual security alignment. For example, the only actual byproduct, the APACL, ran straight into the serious problem of Japanese membership. In 1954, the ROC intended to invite a Japanese delegation to participate in the 1955 second APACL conference; however, the negotiation with Korea was unsuccessful.[68] Korea would not accept a Japanese delegation that had observer status and said it would refuse to participate if Japan joined.[69] Thus, the second conference had to be postponed. The ROC received the Japanese delegation and traveled to the island. Chiang told them the trilateral concerted anti-communist struggle suffered from the unfortunate Japan-Korea problem, and the ROC would continue to cooperate with Japan as well as make suggestions to Korea.[70] The next year, in anticipation of the postponed second conference, a Korean governmental newspaper commented that the ROC must make a choice between Japan and free Asia, and it was possible that Korea might build another organization with other free states.[71] During the conference, the ROC tried to discuss new membership issues, but the Korean delegation strongly opposed Japan’s participation. Given the fact that the league was dominated by the ROC, South Korea raised the rumor that Taiwanese chairman Ku Cheng-kang (谷正刚) was courting other representatives to oppose Korea.[72] In the end, Korea successfully blocked the extension of a ROC-backed invitation to Japan to the APACL for the entire Syngman Rhee era. Japan finally joined the league in June 1960—the month following Rhee’s exile to the United States.

Friction between the two anti-communist partners over Japan was not exclusive to the APACL. As mentioned above, after normalizing relations with the Soviet Union, Japan had an opportunity to join the UN. In November 1956, South Korea asked the ROC to veto Japan’s application to the UN Security Council and used Taiwan’s willingness to sign a friendship treaty vis-à-vis Korea to add pressure on Taipei.[73] Apparently, Taiwan did not veto the proposal, and Japan entered the UN in December.

Conclusion: Asian Cold War Perspective

In conclusion, the ROC’s position that “Asia has only one arch enemy,”[74] conflicted with the ROK view that “the danger is two-fold.”[75] The ROC government viewed Japan as an anti-communist bulwark and supported Japan’s economic rejuvenation as well as its international political participation. However, such a positive attitude towards Japan made Rhee conclude that Taiwan was pro-Japanese.[76] Hence, the prospective alliance proposed by Seoul, which was aimed at fighting against both communism and Japanese expansion, inevitably failed.

When we move away from Washington’s policies and military calculation, the multi-faceted ideas of these Asian nations are revealed: for them, the historical period defined as the Cold War was not just a time of binary rivalry between communism and capitalism, but also a fight for national independence and liberty. Therefore, the competition between communism and anti-communism overlapped with colonization and decolonization, as well as imperialism and anti-imperialism. In this sense, identifying the dangers, prioritizing their severity, and adopting practical solutions to address these dangers triggered divergent views among non-communist Asian countries. The divergences were a result of various factors such as historical experiences, ideological lines, personal worldviews, temporary urgencies, domestic politics, and understandings of regional futures.

When considering the conflicting opinions among Asian nations and the failure to foster a regional security pact, scholars tend to argue that non-communist Asian states were fighting against different communist threats, like the PRC, North Korea, and other communist guerrillas. This differed from Europe, which was commonly seen as facing only the threat from the Soviet Union. Therefore, the most significant incentive for a mutual security treaty, a single shared enemy, was absent in Asia; this is the reason for the lack of such an alliance.[77] This paper broadens the concept of “the enemy,” which does not solely refer to communism in the framework of the Cold War, but includes more issues that might violate the preservation of independence, a fundamental concern for the Asian nations. The diverse threats that could lower the sense of a common danger among the Asian nations made the leaders disinclined to form a multilateral alliance, especially given the fact that the alliance would greatly challenge the degree of freedom available for making and implementing decisions.

The origins, process, and result of building an Asian anti-communist alignment are exemplary of this complex historical period and encourage a strengthening of the scholarship on Cold War history. Cold War historiography requires a departure from America- or Soviet-centric perspectives that primarily emphasize uni-directional power- and policy-projections. Looking at the ideas and problems circulated within the third world and delving into the relationships among these anti- and non-communist states can internationalize the historical research based on multi-archival studies. This paper tries to break some habitual limits of Cold War research. Broadening the origins of the alignment discussion can break down the barrier of Cold War periodization and contribute to historical continuity. More importantly, it avoids the traditional notion of the Cold War, as a dualistic capitalist-communist clash or “big power rivalry.” When we focus on the non-communist third world, additional stories of struggles independent of the issue of pro- or anti-communism emerge in the shadow of the traditional framework, thereby enriching this historical period and widening the scope of current research.


[1] Min Shilin闵石麟, Zhonghan guanxi shihua 中韩外交史话 [A Historical Account of Sino-Korea Diplomacy] (Chongqing: Dongfang chubanshe东方出版社, 1942), 26-27.

[2] Report by the Policy Planning Staff, February 24, 1948, PPS/23, Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), 1948, General; the United Nations, vol. 1, bk. 2 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1983), 523-525.

[3] Note by the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council (Souers) to President Truman, April 2, 1948, NSC 8, FRUS, 1948, The Far East and Australasia, vol. 6, bk. 2, 1164-1169. Report by the National Security Council to the President, March 22, 1949, NSC 8/2, FRUS, 1949, The Far East and Australasia, vol. 7, bk. 2, 970-978.

[4] Report by the National Security Council, March 22, 1949, FRUS, 1949.

[5] Letter from the President (Syngman Rhee) to Lt. General Choi Duk-shin, April 05, 1956, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, B-333b-091, The Korean Legation in Vietnam, Reports from the Korean Mission to the United Nations and Republic of Korea Embassies and Legations, Syngman Rhee Institute, Yonsei University. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/121025.

[6] David W. Mabon, “Elusive Agreements: The Pacific Pact Proposals of 1949–1951,” Pacific Historical Review 57:2 (1988), 147–177. Mabon’s work emphasizes the policies of the United States, the United Kingdom, and other powers towards the proposed Pacific pact, but the sources used are dated. Jin Jingyi金景一, “Qianlun chaoxian zhanzheng qian jiangjieshi yu lichengwan guanxi de hexin xiansuo” 浅论朝鲜战争前蒋介石与李承晚关系的核心线索 [Discussion on the Core Clue of the Relationship between Chiang Kai-shek and Syngman Rhee before the Korean War], Studies of International Politics 国际政治研究 2002, 4: 127-134. Jin argues that the core clue of the relationship was zaoshi (造势, “make the situation”), but the paper largely relies on a single source—Chinese ambassador Shao Yulin’s memoir and lacks other supportive documents. Wang Xiaoping 汪小平, “Gouxiangtongmeng: 1950 nianqianhou yuandong ‘taipingyanggongyue’ wenti yu meiguo duitai zhengce” 构想同盟: 1950年前后远东“太平洋公约”问题与美国对台政策 [Conceived Alliance: the Far East “Pacific Pact” Issue and American Policies towards Taiwan before and after 1950], Youth Academic Forum of the Institute of Modern History, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences中国社会科学院近代史研究所青年学术论坛 (2010): 385-409. Kiyoung Rho, “The Development of Pacific Pact Policy and the Plan of Regional Security in the Syngman Rhee Regime..” The Journal of Korean History 11 (2002), 186–223. Jeong-Bae Kim, “The Nature of the ‘Pacific Union’ Discussions in the Light of American Global Strategy,” (MA thesis, Pusan National University, 1990). Jin-Hee Park, “Syngman Rhee’s Recognition toward Japan and Pacific Pact,” Historical Criticism 76 (2006), 90–118. Kim and Park analyze Taiwan’s relations with Japan and the United States during the discussion of the Pacific Pact.

[7] Junghyun Park, “Frustrated Alignment: The Pacific Pact Proposals from 1949-1954 and South Korea-Taiwan Relations,” International Journal of Asian Studies xxii, no. 2 (2015), 217-237. Park’s work tries to jump out of the Washington-centric circle and view the issue via bilateral relationship; however, he fails to look at the Pacific Pact in a broader sense, regardless of if it is an Asian non-communist world, or the third world. Steven Phillips, “‘Yuandong de beiyue’: guomindang yu quyu junshi hezuo” “远东的北约”: 国民党与区域军事合作 [“A Far Eastern NATO”: The Nationalists and Regional Military Cooperation], Studies of Social Sciences (Sichuan Academy of Social Sciences) 社会科学研究(四川省社会科学院) 2010, 6: 133-141. Phillips focuses on the mutual distrust and conflicts between Chiang and the United States through the fact that the proposed military alliance ended up with APACL, a people-to-people organization. Wang Enmei王恩美, [Contradictions and Conflicts between Korea and the ROC on the Dominant Power around Asian Nation’s Anti-Communist League (1953-1956)], Seoul: Studies of Asia 56:3 (2013). Wang discussed the conflicts between the two parties in the APACL, particularly the issues of dominance and the problem of Japan. Wu Ruiyun吴瑞云, Post-war ROC’s Anti-Communist Alliance Policy—the Facts of Anti-Communist Cooperation among Taiwan, Japan, and Korea戦後中華民國の反共連合政策—臺日韓反共協力の実像 (Taipei: Northeast Asia Regional Studies, Academia Sinica中央研究院东北亚区域研究, 2001). Using archives in Taiwan, this Japanese book discusses the failure of the Taiwan-Korean military alliance as well as the collaboration between Taiwan and Japan, respectively. Chen Tzu-chi陈孜绮, “Zhanhou taiwan duihan zhengce xingcheng yu bianqian (1945-1960)” 战后台湾对韩政策形成与变迁 (1945-1960) [The Formation and Change of Korea Policy in Post-War Taiwan (1945-1960)], (MA thesis, National Taipei University, 2018). This recent thesis primarily draws from Taiwanese published and unpublished records and thoroughly emphasizes the overall bilateral relations in Rhee’s era. Muhyung Cho, “The Establishment and Decline of APACL—Conceptualizing ROK-US Conflict based on Role Theory,” Journal of World Politics 29 (2008), 187-239. Youngho Choi, “Rhee Syngman Regime’s Ideas of Pacific Alliance and the Asian People Anti-Communist League’s Birth,” Korea Journal of International Relations 39 (1999), 165-182. Haruka Matsuda, “‘Pacific Pact’ and ‘The Asian People Anti-Communist League’: American Reactions to the Proposals of the Two Security Pacts by ‘Outpost Countries’ in East Asia.” Pacific and American Studies 5 (2003), 135–52. Cho, Choi, and Matsuda’s research analyzes the transformation from the Pacific pact to the APACL, Rhee’s own role in the course, and the regional security collaboration at that time.

[8] Kai He and Huiyun Feng, “‘Why Is There No NATO in Asia?’ Revisited: Prospect Theory, Balance of Threat, and US Alliance Strategies,” European Journal of International Relations 18, no. 2 (2012): 227-250.

[9] Charles Kraus, “‘The Danger is Two-Fold’: Decolonisation and Cold War in Anti-Communist Asia, 1955-7,” The International History Review 39 (2017), no. 2: 256-273.

[10] Torben Gülstorff, “Warming Up a Cooling War: An Introductory Guide on the CIAS and Other Globally Operating Anti-communist Networks at the Beginning of the Cold War Decade of Détente,” Wilson Center CWIHP Working Paper Series 75 (2015).

[11] Vi Kyuin Wellington Koo, Gu Weijun huiyilu 顾维钧回忆录 [The Memoir of Vi Kyuin Wellington Koo], vol. 7, (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju中华书局, 1985), 289. Relevant history can also refer to archival records. Telegram from Stevenson to Foreign Office, January 12, 1949, FO 371/75799, F1306/10124/10, British Foreign Office Records.

[12] The Chargé in the Philippines (Lockett) to the Acting Secretary of State, January 15, 1949, 890.00/1–1549, FRUS, 1949, The Far East and Australasia, vol. 7, bk. 2, 1115-1117.

[13] Syngman Rhee, Collection of President Rhee Syngman’s Statements (Seoul: Ministry of Information, 1953): 144, cited in Junghyun Park, “Frustrated Alignment: The Pacific Pact Proposals from 1949-1954 and South Korea-Taiwan Relations,” 217-237.

[14] Shao was invited by Kim Koo to serve as consultant to the Provisional Government and helped the government to participate in the international stage using his dual role as both the Chinese official and Korean representative. In January 1945, Shao traveled to the United States to participate in the Pacific Conference, which discussed the post-war Korean issue, and to try to coordinate the divisive America-based Korean independence groups. He met with Rhee several times, which was the first time Rhee had contact with an official from the ROC. Letter from Kim Koo to Wu Tiecheng, December 9, 1944, 特17/34.5, KMT Party History Office Archive. Shao Yulin邵毓麟, Shihan huiyilu 使韩回忆录  [Memoir of an Ambassador to Korea] (Taipei: Zhuanjiwenxue chubanshe 传记文学出版社, 1980), 52-62.

[15] Telegraph from Shao Yulin to Chiang Kai-shek, President Chiang’s Document, June 6, 1949, 002-080106-00068-001, Archive of Academia Historica. Shao Yulin, Shihan huiyilu (Taipei: Zhuanjiwenxue chubanshe, 1980), 103-106.

[16] Visit to the Philippines, President Chiang’s Record, July 1949, 002-080106-00073-004, Archive of Academia Historica.

[17] Draft of the China-Korea-the Philippines Mutual Assistance Treaty, July 1949, 11-01-03-06-01-002, 012/0001, Archive of the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica.

[18] Shao Yulin, Shihan huiyilu (Taipei: Zhuanjiwenxue chubanshe, 1980), 112.

[19] Chiang Kai-shek Publicized a Statement when Arriving, President Chiang’s Document, August 6, 1949, 002-080106-00068-004, Archive of Academia Historica. Also see Shao Yulin, Shihan huiyilu (Taipei: Zhuanjiwenxue chubanshe, 1980), 115-116.

[20] Chiang-Quirino Proposal for a Pacific Union, State Department Office of Chinese Affairs memorandum, July 19, 1949, Records of the Office of Chinese Affairs 1945-1955 (Wilmington: Scholarly Resources Inc., 1989), reel 7.

[21] Junghyun Park, “Frustrated Alignment: The Pacific Pact Proposals from 1949-1954 and South Korea-Taiwan Relations,” 217-237.

[22] Memorandum by the Policy Information Officer of the Office of Far Eastern Affairs (Fisher) to the Director of the Office (Butterworth), July 15, 1949, 890.00/1–1549, FRUS, 1949, The Far East and Australasia, vol. 7, bk. 2, 1162.

[23] The Chargé in the Philippines (Lockett) to the Secretary of State, July 25, 1949, 890.20/7–2549, ibid., 1174-1175.

[24] Telegram from Shao Yulin to Chiang Kai-shek about the Weapon Assistance List Asked by Korea, President Chiang’s Document, August 2, 1949, 002-080106-00068-006, Archive of Academia Historica. The Ambassador in Korea (Muccio) to the Secretary of State, September 19, 1949, A-282, ibid., 1080-1084.

[25] The Ambassador in Korea (Muccio) to the Secretary of State, September 19, 1949, A-282, FRUS, 1949, The Far East and Australasia, vol. 7, bk. 2, 1080-1084.

[26] Kiyoung Rho, “The Development of Pacific Pact Policy and the Plan of Regional Security in the Syngman Rhee Regime,” The Journal of Korean History 11 (2002), 197-198, cited in Junghyun Park, “Frustrated Alignment: The Pacific Pact Proposals from 1949-1954 and South Korea-Taiwan Relations,” 226.

[27] Wang Dongyuan王东原, Fusheng jianshu 浮生简述 [Brief Narration of My Life] (Taipei: Zhuanjiwenxue chubanshe 传记文学出版社, 1987), 107.

[28] Abstract and Draft of the Pacific Mutual Assistance Treaty Delivered by Wang Shijie to Chiang Kai-shek, President Chiang’s Document, November 2, 1953, 002-080106-00069-011, Archive of Academia Historica.

[29] Chen Tzu-chi, “Zhanhou taiwan duihan zhengce xingcheng yu bianqian (1945-1960),” 84-85.

[30] Conversation Summary between Kung-chao Yeh and Byeon Yeong-tae, President Chiang’s Document, November 28, 1953, 002-080106-00069-015, Archive of Academia Historica.

[31] Asian Peoples’ Anti-Communist League, December 1953-May 1955, 11-13-13-02-001, Archive of the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, 105-106.

[32] Asian Peoples’ Anti-Communist League, December 1953-May 1955.

[33] Asian Peoples’ Anti-Communist Conference, Press Release No. 4, June 17, 1954, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, B-387-012, Documents Related to the Asian Anti-Communist League Conference, Papers Related to Treaty-Making and International Conferences, Syngman Rhee Institute, Yonsei University. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/118314.

[34] Torben Gülstorff, “Warming Up a Cooling War.”

[35] After it was confirmed by Taiwan and the United States that the organization was a civil society, the Philippines and Thailand accepted the invitation. Asian Peoples’ Anti-Communist League, December 1953-May 1955, 11-13-13-02-001, Archive of the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, 106.

[36] Torben Gülstorff, “Warming Up a Cooling War.”

[37] Yin Xizhen尹錫貞, “李承晩政権の対日外交” [Syngman Rhee Administration’s Japan Diplomacy], (PhD diss., Keio University, 2016) 92-102.

[38] Letter from Kim Hong-il to Kung-chao Yeh, Sino-Korean Relations, November 26, 1955, 11-01-03-06-01-004, Archive of the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, 142-143.

[39] Letter from the President (Syngman Rhee) to Lt. General Choi Duk-shin, April 5, 1956, B-333b-091, Wilson Center CWIHP, https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/121025.

[40] CDS Report No. 23 from Choi Duk Shin to the President (Syngman Rhee), November 8 1956, B-333a-016, Wilson Center CWIHP, https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/120975.

[41] Letter from the President (Syngman Rhee) to Minister Duk Shin Choi, June 06, 1956, B-333b-070, Wilson Center CWIHP, https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/121020.

[42] Sun Yat-sen, “Speech to Kobe Business Council and Other Five Groups at the Kobe Senior Girl’s School” [在神户高等女校对神户商业会议所等五团体演讲] November 28, 1924, in ed. Qin Xiaoyi 秦孝仪, Guofu quanji 国父全集 [Complete Works of the Founding Father], vol. 3, (Taipei: Jindai zhongguo chubanshe 近代中国出版社, 1989) 535-542.

[43] Telegram to Li Liejun for Leaving in Japan and Launching Asian Great League, October 13, 1924, in Qin, Guofu quanji, 544.

[44] Wang Jianlang王建朗, “Daguoyishi yu daguozuowei: kangzhan houqi de zhongguo guoji jiaose dingwei yu waijiao nuli” 大国意识与大国作为: 抗战后期的中国国际角色定位与外交努力 [Great Power Cognition and Actions: Positioning China’s International Role and Diplomatic Efforts in the Late Anti-Japanese War] Studies of Modern History近代史研究2006, 4.

[45] Bruce Cumings, The Origins of the Korea War, vol. 1 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981), 148-154. Shao Yulin, Shihan huiyilu (Taipei: Zhuanjiwenxue chubanshe, 1980), 85-92. Hsiao-ting Lin, Kunshou yu fangong: lengzhanzhong de Taiwan xuanze (Beijing: Jiuzhou chubanshe, 2017), 43.

[46] Chiang Kai-shek Diaries, April 14, 1947, Archive of Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

[47] Chiang Kai-shek, Fangongkange jibenlun 反共抗俄基本论 [Basic Theory of Anti-Communism and Resisting to Russia] (Taipei: Zhongyang wenwu gongyingshe中央文物供应社, 1953)

[48] West German Embassy in Manila to department II 3 (West German Foreign Office), September 27 1965, the archive of the West German Foreign Office (PA AA, AA), B 40, 34, 106-109, cited in Torben Gülstorff, “Warming Up a Cooling War.”

[49] Chiang Kai-shek Diaries, July 11, 1949, Archive of Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

[50] Chiang Kai-shek Diaries, August 31, 1949, Archive of Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

[51] Chiang Kai-shek Diaries, January 1, 1950, Archive of Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

[52] Torben Gülstorff, “Warming Up a Cooling War,” 32.

[53] Syngman Rhee, translated by Han-Kyo Kim, The Spirit of Independence: A Primer of Korean Modernization and Reform, (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2001), 53.

[54] Letter No. 104 from the President (Syngman Rhee) to Minister Duk Shin Choi, December 26 1957, B-334-001, Wilson Center CWIHP, https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/121035.

[55] Chiang Kai-shek’s Secret Record—Testimonies of the 80-years Sino-Japan Relations. vol. 2 (Tokyo: Sankei Shimbunsha, 1971), 411, cited in Chen Fenglin陈奉林, “‘Ritaitiaoyue’ yu zhanhou ritai guanxi” “日台条约”与战后日台关系框架 [“Japan-Taiwan Treaty” and the Framework of the Post-war Japan-Taiwan Relations], Journal of China Foreign Affairs University 外交学院学报 2004, 12: 63.

[56] Shao Yulin, Shihan huiyilu (Taipei: Zhuanjiwenxue chubanshe, 1980), 316-319.

[57] Xinhua News Agency, “American Imperialists’ New Scheme against Chinese People and Far East People” 美帝国主义反对中国人民和远东人民的新阴谋, July 17 1949, ed, Central Archives, Selected Documents of CCP Center中共中央文件选集, vol. 18, (Beijing: CCP Central Party School Publishing House, 1992), 534-535.

[58] Conversation Record between Dong Xianguang and Syngman Rhee, October 29, 1953, 11-01-03-06-03-101, Archive of the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, 44.

[59] Seoul: Donga ilbo동아일보 [East Asia Daily], January 7 1950.

[60] Conversation Summary between Kung-chao Yeh and Byeon Yeong-tae, President Chiang’s Document, November 28, 1953, 002-080106-00069-015, Archive of Academia Historica.

[61] Letter No. 79 from the President (Syngman Rhee) to Minister Duk Shin Choi, July 26 1957, B-331-038, Wilson Center CWIHP, https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/120950.

[62] CDS Report No. 52 from Choi Duk Shin to the President (Syngman Rhee), August 15 1957, B-331-023, Wilson Center CWIHP, https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/120943.

[63] CDS Report No. 59 from Choi Duk Shin to the President (Syngman Rhee), October 18 1957, B-334-044, Wilson Center CWIHP, https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/121055.

[64] Letter from the President (Syngman Rhee) to Lt. General Choi Duk-shin, April 5 1956, B-333b-091, Wilson Center CWIHP, https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/121025.

[65] CDS Report No. 8 from Choi Duk Shin to the President (Syngman Rhee), July 6 1956, B-333b-048, Wilson Center CWIHP, https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/121008.

[66] CDS Report No. 47 from Choi Duk Shin to the President (Syngman Rhee), July 11 1957, B-331-045, Wilson Center CWIHP, https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/120952.

[67] Draft Letter from Choi Duk Shin to the President (Syngman Rhee), December 1957, B-334-002, Wilson Center CWIHP, https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/121036.

[68] APACL, September 1954-Febrary 1955, 11-11-17-01-008, Archive of the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, 111.

[69] Wang Enmei, “Contradictions and Conflicts between Korea and the ROC on the Dominant Power around Asian Nation’s Anti-Communist League,” Seoul: Studies of Asia, 56:3 (2013), cited in Chen Tzu-chi, “Zhanhou taiwan duihan zhengce xingcheng yu bianqian (1945-1960),” 90.

[70] Conversation Records of Chiang Kai-shek met with Japan Congressmen Goodwill Visiting Group and Japan Observational Group of the APACL, President Chiang’s Document, August 26, 1955, 002-080106-00065-021, Archive of Academia Historica.

[71] Relations in the APACL, January 1956-August 1960, 11-01-03-07-02-009, Archive of the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, 13.

[72] Sino-Korea Relations, October 1953-November 1957, 11-01-03-06-01-004, Archive of the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, 199-201.

[73] Sino-Korea Relations, September 1954-October 1956, 11-01-03-06-01-005, Archive of the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, 4-5.

[74] Asian Peoples’ Anti-communist Conference, Draft Resolution Submitted by the Chinese Delegation, June 16, 1954, B-389-035, Wilson Center CWIHP, https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/118340.

[75] Letter No. 104 from the President (Syngman Rhee) to Minister Duk Shin Choi, December 26 1957, B-334-001, Wilson Center CWIHP, https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/121035.

[76] Letter No. 104 from the President (Syngman Rhee) to Minister Duk Shin Choi, December 26, 1957.

[77] Steven Phillips, “‘Yuandong de beiyue’: guomindang yu quyu junshi hezuo” [“A Far Eastern NATO”: The Nationalists and Regional Military Cooperation], Studies of Social Sciences (Sichuan Academy of Social Sciences) (2010), 6: 138.

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