North leaps on Nixon’s nuke plan

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North leaps on Nixon’s nuke plan

Pyongyang threatened it would beef up its nuclear deterrence “in a new and developed fashion” after newly declassified documents disclosed that the Nixon administration considered nuclear attacks on North Korea in 1969 after it shot down a U.S. surveillance aircraft, killing 31 soldiers.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, in an interview with the state-owned Korea Central News Agency, criticized Washington yesterday for “trying to use its nuclear weapons at any opportunity.”

Yesterday’s threat came at a time of escalating tension on the Peninsula as Seoul and Washington try to get the UN Security Council to condemn the North for its alleged role in the March 26 attack on the South Korean warship Cheonan. Six-party talks aimed at denuclearizing the North have been suspended since December 2008.

“Historical evidence has proven again that our resolution of ‘a nuke for a nuke’ was right,” the ministry spokesman was quoted as saying by the KCNA. “In particular, the recent unusual developments surrounding the Korean Peninsula are further highlighting a need to enhance our nuclear deterrence in a new and developed fashion.”

The comments came after the Washington-based National Security Archive, marking the 60th anniversary of the 1950-53 Korean War, released on June 23 nearly 1,700 declassified diplomatic records related to Korea, including the Nixon administration’s discussion of a possible nuclear attack on the North.

According to the records, Nixon’s administration, after the North shot down a U.S. reconnaissance plane in April 1969, considered several military retaliation plans including “selective use of tactical nuclear weapons against North Korea.” The plan, codenamed “Freedom Drop,” involved “10 to 70 kilotons” of nuclear weapons to be dropped on the North’s airfields, command control centers and naval bases, and it was estimated they would cause civilian casualties from “around 100 to several thousands.”

“This is another proof that the United States was actually going to use nuclear weapons at every possible opportunity,” said the North’s official.

North Korea’s ambassador to the UN, Sin Son-ho, suggested on June 16 that Pyongyang would take military action if the Security Council condemns the North. Sin said the target of possible military action was “certainly South Korea.” Recently, the North threatened to turn Seoul into “a sea of fire,” language not heard since 1994.


By Jung Ha-won [hawon@joongang.co.kr]
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