Concern over North’s nukes dates back 40 years

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Concern over North’s nukes dates back 40 years

Seoul and Washington were concerned about North Korea’s capability to produce nuclear weapons even before the country built its main nuclear facility in the 1980s and tried to detect a possible nuclear test early on, declassified South Korean diplomatic documents showed yesterday.

According to the documents, which recorded exchanges between South Korea and the United States in the early 1970s, the two countries attempted a joint project at the time to install nuclear test equipment near South Korea’s border with North Korea.

Under the project, named “Clear Sky,” the two sides started building an acoustic detector and an electromagnetic pulse detector at Camp Long, a former U.S. military base in Wonju, Gangwon, the documents showed.

“This intelligence-collection project will significantly enhance our knowledge of the technical competence in the nuclear field of potential adversaries and will materially assist in our joint efforts to improve the mutual defense,” Lt. Gen. Robert N. Smith of the U.S. Air Force said in a letter sent to Koo Choong-whay of Seoul’s Foreign Ministry in 1971. At the time, Smith and Koo were heading a joint committee handling issues regarding U.S. troops in South Korea.

In the documents, Smith requested that the project only be known by a minimum number of Korean officials, hinting at the sensitivity of the plan.

The project started years ahead of when North Korea’s nuclear ambitions emerged as a major concern for the U.S. and regional players, including China, North Korea’s closest ally.

The North began constructing a 5-megawatt reactor in 1980 in Yongbyon, North Pyongan Province, from which it is suspected to have produced enough plutonium for at least six nuclear weapons.

The first North Korean nuclear test was conducted in October 2006, followed by a second one in May 2009. Japan’s Sankei newspaper suspected recently that the North is preparing for a third nuclear test, citing British intelligence that detected a tunnel-digging move in Punggye-ri, North Hamgyong Province, where the two previous tests were conducted.

Last November, the North revealed a uranium enrichment facility to a U.S. scientist.


By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]


Related Korean Article[머니투데이]
한미 70년대부터 북 핵실험 탐지시설 구축 추진

[외교통상부 비밀외교문서 공개]

한미 양국이 지난 70년대초 이미 휴전선 인근에 핵실험 탐지시설 구축을 추진한 것으로 드러났다.

외교통상부가 21일 공개한 비밀외교문서에 따르면 양국은 `맑은 하늘(Clear Sky)`이라는 암호명 아래 강원도 원주의 미군기지 캠프롱에 음향탐지 장비와 전자진동탐지 장비를 설치하는 정보수집 계획을 추진했다.

이번 비밀외교문서는 한미합동위원회 양국 대표가 지난 71년 10월 18일 교환했다.

문서는 이번 정보수집계획은 가상적국의 핵분야 기술 능력에 대한 우리의 지식을 상당히 높여줄 것이며 대한민국의 상호방위를 향상시키려는 공동 노력에 실질적 도움이 될 것이라고 명시하고 있다.


반면 핵실험 실시주체를 북한으로 명시하지 않고 정보수집 계획의 완료시점과 재원 등도 언급하지 않았다.

하지만 중국이 지난 64년 이미 핵실험을 실시했던 점이나 휴전선 인근인 원주에 장비 배치를 추진했던 점으로 미뤄 정보수집 대상은 북한으로 추정된다.

문서는 또 한미합동위원회는 주한미군이 장비 설치에 필요한 용지를 결정하도록 기술조사를 승인한다고 명시하고 있다. 이후 용지 신청은 시설구역분과위원회가 정해진 절차에 따라 합동위원회에 건의한다고 돼 있다.

주한미군은 이 같은 내용을 한국 측 각료들에게 통보하되 사안의 민감성을 고려해 통보 대상을 최소한으로 제한해 달라고 요청했다.

한편 미국은 지난 72년 2월 14일 정보수집 계획의 암호명을 `맑은 하늘`에서 `떡갈나무(Oak Tree)`로 변경했다.

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