National Press Club

Did the Korean War start at the National Press Club?

June 12, 2018 | By Gilbert Klein | gilbert.klein@me.com

Photo taken just before Dean Acheson (left) delivered his remarks.  With him are National Press Club President John O’Brien of The Philadelphia Inquirer (center) and Sen. Tom Connally, D-Tex. Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Photo taken just before Dean Acheson (left) delivered his remarks. With him are National Press Club President John O’Brien of The Philadelphia Inquirer (center) and Sen. Tom Connally, D-Tex. Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Photo/Image: Acme Telephoto

As President Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un appears to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula, we should look back at a time when the National Press Club may have played a role in launching the Korean War.

With the Cold War heating up following the success of the communist revolution in China, Secretary of State Dean Acheson chose a Club Luncheon on Jan. 12, 1950, to outline America’s defense perimeter in the Far East. He said it included Japan, Okinawa and the Philippines. Not mentioned were South Korea and Taiwan.

“There has been a lot of speculation that Acheson’s statement was the final catalyst that induced Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin to arm the North Koreans with some modern weapons to attack South Korea,” Korean War historian Bevin Alexander said. “A lot of history flowed out of that talk.”

As soon as North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, President Truman immediately revoked the defense perimeter statement, sent U.S. troops to South Korea and the American Navy to defend Taiwan. After three years of brutal fighting on the peninsula, hostilities ended with a truce, but not a treaty, leaving American troops based there ever since and a succession of Kims angling for a way to push Americans out.

This is another in a series provided by Club historian Gil Klein. Dig down anywhere in the Club’s 110-year-history, and you will find some kind of significant event in the history of the world, the nation, Washington and the Club itself. Many of these events were caught in illustrations that tell the stories.