‘Since ‘50s, US often wanted to nuke NKorea’

US pondered, planned and threatened use of nuclear weapons against North Korea, says govt documents.

New York: From the 1950s` Pentagon to Obama administration, the United States has repeatedly pondered, planned and threatened use of nuclear weapons against North Korea, according to declassified and other US government documents released in this 60th-anniversary year of the Korean War.

Air Force bombers flew nuclear rehearsal runs over North Korea`s capital during the war. The US military services later vied for the lead role in any "atomic delivery" over North Korea. In the late 1960s, nuclear-armed US warplanes stood by in South Korea on 15-minute alert to strike the north.

Just this past April, issuing a US Nuclear Posture Review, Defence Secretary Robert Gates said "all options are on the table" for dealing with Pyongyang -- meaning US nuclear strikes were not ruled out.

The stream of new revelations about US nuclear planning further fills in a picture of what North Korea calls "the increasing nuclear threat of the US," which it cites as the reason it developed its own atom-bomb programme -- as a deterrent.

"This is the lesson we have drawn," North Korea`s vice foreign minister, Pak Kil Yon, told the UN General Assembly in New York on September 29.

The new information is contained in Korean War documents released by the CIA to mark this June`s anniversary of the start of the conflict; another declassified package obtained by Washington`s private National Security Archive research group under the Freedom of Information Act; and additional documents, also once top-secret and found at the US National Archives, provided to The Associated Press by intelligence historian and author Matthew Aid.

Expert observers are speculating that North Korea, which conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, may soon stage another. Pyongyang`s programme "has now reached an extremely dangerous level," Kim Tae-hyo, a South Korean government security adviser, said in comments published Wednesday in Seoul.

In a report on global nuclear threats, analysts at Washington`s Stimson Centre identify six overt warnings by high-ranking American officials since 1976 that the US would resort to nuclear weapons against North Korea if warranted. But US threats go back more than a half-century, to long before North Korea split its first atom.

In mid-August 1950, just seven weeks after North Korea invaded South Korea and five years after two US atomic bombs killed at least 220,000 Japanese in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, US nuclear weapons were first assigned to the new war theatre, according to a declassified Army planning document obtained by the AP.

Bureau Report