Year
1950

U.N. approves armed force to repel North Korea

Just two days after communist North Korean forces invaded South Korea, the United Nations Security Council approves a resolution put forward by the United States calling for armed force to repel the North Korean invaders. The action provided the pretext for U.S. intervention in the conflict and was the first time the Security Council had ever approved the use of military force.

On June 25, 1950, communist North Korea invaded South Korea. Although some U.S. military personnel were in South Korea, the North Korean forces made rapid headway. Almost immediately, the U.N. Security Council issued a resolution calling for a cease-fire and an end to North Korean aggression. North Korea dismissed the resolution as “illegal.” On June 27, Warren Austin, the U.S. representative on the Security Council, proposed a resolution. It noted that North Korea had ignored the earlier cease-fire resolution and that South Korea was pleading for assistance. Therefore, the resolution asked that “the members of the United Nations furnish such assistance to the Republic of Korea as may be necessary to repel the armed attack and to restore international peace and security in the area.” The resolution passed by a vote of 7 to 1. Yugoslavia was the only dissenting vote; Egypt and India abstained. The Soviet Union, as a permanent member of the Security Council, could have easily vetoed the resolution, but the Russian representative was boycotting Security Council meetings until the communist People’s Republic of China was admitted to the United Nations.

The Security Council vote meant that any member nation could now come to the assistance of South Korea, though it left unstated how the efforts of various nations might be coordinated. For the United States, the resolution was all that was needed to provide a foundation for American military intervention. Just three days after the resolution was passed, President Harry S. Truman dispatched land, sea, and air forces to beat back the North Korean attack. That action led to three years of U.S. involvement in the Korean War and over 50,000 U.S. servicemen were killed in the conflict. An armistice signed in July 1953 left Korea a divided nation.

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