HONOLULU, EAST-WEST WIRE — The tragic Korean War, which began 60 years ago, resulted from the post-World War II division of Korea by the United States and the Soviet Union — intended to be temporary — and from the political struggle that developed between Seoul and Pyongyang. After the division, the South Korean government under Syngman Rhee and the North Korean government under Kim Il Sung each wanted to rule all of Korea and to extinguish its peninsular rival.

Better armed than his southern opponent, Kim tried to do this in late June 1950 after much lobbying to secure backing from China and Russia.

Kim gambled that he could overrun the southern half of Korea before sufficient numbers of U.S. and allied forces could arrive to turn back the tide, and he nearly succeeded. U.S. and other forces under a United Nations mandate intervened, the Chinese counter-intervened, and the battle lines shifted dramatically for a year before settling down for another two years of stalemate before the war ended in an armistice that restored the original division between North and South Korea.