U. S. Nuclear Deployment and Threats Against Korea

The following is excerpted from an article which first appeared in "The Worker", August 30, 2005.

Early Threats and Deployment

It is well-known that during the Korean war, the U.S. came very close to dropping nuclear weapons. In 1950, Truman stated in a press conference that the use of the atom bomb was "under active consideration," and General MacArthur formally requested to use atomic weapons that year, outlining a list of targets. MacArthur later stated "I would have dropped between thirty and fifty atomic bombs . . . Strung across the neck of Manchuria." He said he wanted to "spread behind us - from the Sea of Japan to the Yellow Sea - a belt of radioactive cobalt . . . Which has an active life of between sixty and 120 years." So too, many other U.S. military and civilian officials called for dropping the bomb on North Korea.

The direct deployment of nuclear weapons in the region was augmented when Truman authorized the transfer of 9 nuclear bombs to Guam on April 6, 1951. In 1956, a wide variety of nuclear weapons were deployed to Guam, Okinawa, and Hawaii.

In August, 1957, the Eisenhower administration approved National Security Council resolution NSC 5702/2, which included a provision for the deployment of nuclear weapons in South Korea. That same year, Eisenhower deployed 280mm nuclear artillery and "Honest John" nuclear rockets to South Korea. Nuclear-armed Matador missiles were sent to South Korea the following year.

At the end of the Eisenhower administration, U.S. nuclear deployments on shore in the Pacific - in Okinawa, Guam, the Philippines, Korea, and Taiwan - totaled approximately 1,700 weapons. There were about a dozen weapons on Taiwan, 60 in the Philippines, 225 on Guam, and 600 in Korea. Nearly 800 weapons were located at Kadena airbase, Okinawa, Japan.

By 1967, the total number of U.S. nuclear weapons deployed in the Pacific theater reached 3,200, with about 2,600 of them in South Korea and Okinawa. ( The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 55, No. 6, November/December 1999).

Although in the 1960s and 1970s, Pacific on-shore deployments of nuclear weapons began to decrease, South Korea remained an important forward base for U.S. nuclear weapons. Over 1,000 U.S. nuclear weapons were based in South Korea and many more were aboard U.S. ships and submarines making port calls.

In 1985, the 125th South Korean National Assembly reported that 1,720 U. S. nuclear weapons had been deployed in South Korea. These included nuclear bombs and shells, nuclear warheads on missiles, neutron bombs and shells, nuclear land-mines and so-called backpack nukes.

The Continuing Threat

In 1991, the U.S. officially declared the withdrawal of all remaining land-based tactical nuclear weapons deployed in South Korea.

Even if one were to believe the U.S. statement, this would still not remove the threat from land-based nukes deployed nearby or from nuclear-armed submarines and ships which continually prowl the Pacific.

For example, the U.S. has deployed nearly half of its nuclear warheads (approximately 10,000) and the majority of its strategic forces in the Asia-Pacific region around the Korean Peninsula. It has 560 military bases and facilities, at least 1,000 warplanes and bombers, and over 200 warships including 6 aircraft carriers and 34 nuclear submarines carrying over 5,000 nuclear weapons in the region. It is well-known that U.S. submarines carry nuclear-armed Tomahawk missiles and these and other nuclear-armed ships of the U.S. 7th Fleet frequently dock in South Korean and Japanese ports. U.S. B-52 and B1 bombers based in nearby Guam are also always on 24-hour alert and only hours away from Korea.

As recently as March, 2005, the U.S. nuclear submarine "Los Angeles" was sighted and photographed at Jinhae Port, in South Korea. In addition, a south Korean investigative reporter, Lee Si-woo, has uncovered public documents indicating the presence of U.S. nuclear weapons in South Korea at its naval base at Jinhae, South Korea. Included in the documents are photos of U.S. submarines surfacing near Kahduk island on January 28, 2003 and in previous years. Based on these and other documents, it is widely believed that the U.S. military has been keeping nuclear weapons at Ohsan and Gunsan airbases in South Korea in addition to the Jinhae navy base.

U. S. nuclear-armed submarines also play a key role during U.S.-Korean joint military exercises, named "Foal Eagle", "Keen Edge", and others that are frequently held on and around the Korean peninsula.

Today, official U.S. policy calls for a first-strike, "preemptive" nuclear attack against the DPRK. This is spelled out in the Nuclear Posture Review and the National Security Strategy of the U.S.A., approved by Bush in 2002. In fact, last year, a newly declassified government document exposed that since 1998, the U.S. has had an active contingency plan to drop as many as 30 nuclear warhead on Korea. A senior U.S. official said that the goal of the plan is to "abolish North Korea as a functioning state, end the rule of its leader, Kim Jong Il, and reorganize the country under South Korean control." (quoted from globalsecurity.com).

As part of this plan, known as "scenario 5027," 24 F15-E bombers flew simulation missions at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina dropping mock nuclear bombs on a firing range in Florida between January and June 1998.

Another of the Pentagon's operational plans, labeled "scenario 5026," identifies 756 targets that could be taken out by B-2 stealth bombers and F-117 stealth fighters in order to disable Pyongyang.