Fighting for a truce - January 1951 to July 1953
- 26 May 2010
- From the section Asia-Pacific
President Truman announced that the UN was now willing to sign a ceasefire. But General MacArthur was not satisfied with the compromise.
He wanted an extended war with China, and made his views public - appealing over Truman's head to Congress.
President Truman fired General MacArthur for insubordination in April 1951. MacArthur was replaced as commander of the UN and of US forces in the Far East by General Matthew Ridgway, who himself had taken over the post of US Eighth Army Commander when General Walton Walker was killed in a jeep accident.
Truce talks between the two sides began on 10 July 1951 but it was agreed that hostilities would continue. What was not predicted was the length of those talks. They stalled continually, on issues such as the repatriation of prisoners, and the positioning of the armistice line. The signing of a ceasefire was eventually given a fillip by events far away from the fighting.
In January 1953, Dwight Eisenhower, who had been openly critical of the war, succeeded Truman as US president. Eisenhower informed the communist troops that he was willing to use nuclear weapons to end the conflict.
And in March 1953, the death of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin shook the foundations of the communist world.
On 27 July 1953, an armistice was eventually signed, with the front line accepted as the new border between the two sides. Operation Big Switch followed, when thousands of prisoners on either side were returned. The armistice was only ever intended to be temporary. The document said it was aimed at a ceasefire "until a final peaceful settlement is achieved".
But that settlement never came. The Geneva Agreements in 1954, at which the Korean peninsula was discussed, failed to resolve the issue, and the Korean border has remained petrified in time ever since.