Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Republic of Korea–United States Mutual Defense Treaty (1953)

Defense treaty between the Republic of Korea (ROK, South Korea) and the United States, signed in Washington, D.C., on 1 October 1953 and entered into force on 17 November 1954. Current security arrangements between the two nations continue to be based upon the Republic of Korea–United States Mutual Defense Treaty, which was created in response to the strong demands of South Korean President Syngman Rhee for an American commitment to his nation's defense after the Korean War (1950–1953).

Consisting of six articles, the treaty affirmed that each signatory would regard an armed attack on the other in the Pacific area as "dangerous to its own peace and safety and declare that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes." With this defense treaty, the United States assumed responsibility for defending the political and territorial integrity of South Korea. Backed by the continued presence of U.S. forces in South Korea and the stark reality of life along the demilitarized zone on the Korean Peninsula's 38th Parallel, the wisdom of the treaty was initially unquestioned in South Korea and the United States.

Since the late 1990s, however, South Koreans have increasingly criticized the treaty because it provides the legal foundation for U.S. bases and the stationing of U.S. forces in South Korea. As South Koreans' fear of military attack from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea) declined, many South Koreans questioned the structure of the South Korean–U.S. military alliance.

Jinwung Kim


Further Reading
Kim, Jinwung. "U.S.-South Korea Mutual Security Treaty." Pp. 651–652 in East Asia and the United States: An Encyclopedia of Relations since 1784, edited by James I. Matray. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2002.; Scalapino, Robert, and Han Sungjoo, eds. United States–Korea Relations. Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 1986.
 

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