The principal purpose of this paper is to examine and evaluate the nature of the Republic of Korea(ROK)-United States(US) alliance in the 1960s. The Vietnam War was the most important issue pending between the ROK and US. The US's containment policy based on “domino theory” led to a massive military involvement in Vietnam and resulted in the “Americanization” of the Vietnam War.
The Kennedy administration's early recognition of Park's anti-communist military government in 1961 meant to return to normalcy of the alliance system, which was established in 1953, between Seoul and Washington. To President Park, the Vietnam conflict was a golden opportunity for the ROK to obtain the economic and military benefits from the US. Thus, Park continuously proposed the dispatch of the ROK Armed Forces to Vietnam. In fact, the military expedition in the 1960s not only served as an important basis for the early accomplishment of economic modernization in Korea but also strengthened the ROK-US security alliance. The Johnson administration promised not to reduce US troops stationed in Korea without prior consultation with the ROK government.
The Vietnam conflict ultimately became “an economic bonanza” for the Korean people that greatly facilitated the ROK's economic stability and development. In addition, the ROK military involvement in the Vietnam War also contributed to the enhancement of political position of the Park regime.
In January 1968, North Korea attempted to assassinate President Park and seized the USS Pueblo. Park urged Washington to launch immediate military reprisals against North Korea, but the US refused. The Johnson administration decided not to escalate the incidents. The growing tension between the two countries in 1968 was an ominous indications of confrontation and discord of the ROK-US alliance in the 1970s.