February 1

This Day in History

Cold War

Feb 1, 1951:

U.N. condemns PRC for aggression

By a vote of 44 to 7, the United Nations General Assembly passes a resolution condemning the communist government of the People's Republic of China for acts of aggression in Korea. It was the first time since the United Nations formed in 1945 that it had condemned a nation as an aggressor.

In June 1950, communist forces from North Korea invaded South Korea in an attempt to unify the nation, which had been divided in 1945 when Soviet troops occupied the northern portion of the country and U.S. troops the southern in order to accept the surrender of Japanese forces in Korea. In late 1950, hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops crossed into North Korea to do battle with U.S. forces, which had earlier driven the invading North Korean forces out of South Korea. By 1951, the United States was deeply involved in Korea, having committed thousands of troops and millions of dollars in aid to South Korea.

The General Assembly vote followed unsuccessful attempts by the U.S. delegation to the United Nations to have the Security Council take action against the Chinese. Exercising his nation's veto power, the Soviet representative on the Security Council consistently blocked the U.S. effort. (The United States, France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and Nationalist China had absolute veto power of any Security Council proposal.) Turning to the General Assembly, the U.S. delegation called for the United Nations to condemn communist China as an aggressor in Korea. The final vote fell largely along ideological lines, with the communist bloc nations of the Soviet Union, Byelorussia, Ukraine, Poland, and Czechoslovakia, joined by neutralists Burma and India, voting against the resolution. Despite the votes against it, the resolution passed, declaring that China was "engaged in aggression in Korea," and asked that it "cause its forces and nationals in Korea to cease hostilities against the United Nations forces and to withdraw from Korea."

The action was largely symbolic, because many nations-including some that voted for the resolution-were reluctant to take more forceful action against the People's Republic of China for fear that the conflict in Korea would escalate. While economic and political sanctions could have been brought against China, the United Nations decided to take no further action. The Korean War dragged on for two more bloody years, finally ending in a stalemate and cease-fire in 1953. By that time, over 50,000 U.S. troops had died in the conflict.

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