How Do You Solve A Problem Like Korea?

Published on The National Security Archive, by Robert Wampler, PhD, June 23, 2010.

Washington, D.C., June 23, 2010 – Four decades ago, in response to North Korean military provocations, the U.S. developed contingency plans that included selected use of tactical nuclear weapons against Pyongyang’s military facilities and the possibility of full-scale war, according to recently declassified documents. Astonishingly, casualty estimates ranged from a low of 100 or so civilian deaths, up to “several thousand.”  

Newly-elected President Richard Nixon and his key advisors, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird and JCS Chairman Earle Wheeler, considered a menu of possible military actions against North Korea, from carefully targeted attacks on North Korean military facilities, to a plan codenamed FREEDOM DROP for limited nuclear strikes (with surprisingly limited casualty expectations), to all-out war using nuclear weapons. The Pentagon drew up these plans as the result of North Korea’s downing of a U.S. reconnaissance plane over the Sea of Japan in April 1969 — just one in a long set of military provocations by Pyongyang that continues to the present.

Yet, in another pattern that would be repeated in the years since then, Nixon and his advisors were forced to heed the Pentagon’s warnings that anything short of massive attacks on North Korea’s military power would risk igniting a wider conflagration on the peninsula, leaving diplomacy, with all its frustrations, as the remaining option, coupled with the deterrent posed by U.S. conventional and nuclear forces. These vexing issues confront the Obama administration today as it seeks to forge an effective response to North Korea’s sinking of a South Korean warship last March.

The National Security Archive obtained the documents posted today through multiple Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests to the U.S. government. They are part of a major new collection consisting of almost 1,700 documents, The United States and the Two Koreas, 1969-2000, which the Archive is publishing through ProQuest, on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korea War on June 25th, 1950.

Key points illustrated by these documents include: … (full long text and Notes 1 tp 6).

Link: The Anti-Empire Reports. by William Blum.

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