U.S. Threat Helped Inspire North Korean Nuclear Urge
In his May 7 editorial-page commentary "Blame America First," Stephen Rademaker writes that North Korea's "pursuit of nuclear weapons appears to stem from Kim Jong Il's hunger for prestige and power. He claims that their reasons have nothing to do with Washington's nuclear policy, but in fact they do, and the roots go back more than 50 years. During the Korean War (1950-1953) the U.S. threatened several times to use nuclear weapons against the North. After the armistice, U.S. military forces remained and in 1958 began deploying many types of nuclear weapons to its army and air forces bases in South Korea. The U.S. nuclear arsenal in South Korea reached a peak of almost 1,000 warheads in 1967. Additional warheads were never far away on aircraft carrier battle groups patrolling the North Pacific. The number dropped to about 150 in the mid-1980s and in the fall of 1991 President George H.W. Bush ordered the removal of all of the remaining weapons.
The fact that North Korea was threatened with nuclear weapons during the Korean War, and that for decades afterwards U.S. weapons were deployed in the South with war plans to use them may have had something to do with why Kim Il Sung launched a nuclear weapons program of his own. With Soviet, Chinese and Pakistani help they eventually built the bomb.
As for the U.S. commitment to Article VI of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the latest plans out of the Bush administration call for keeping thousands of nuclear warheads for decades to come. While the U.S. does not deserve all the blame for eroding the NPT, it does deserve some and should be doing more to strengthen it. Some concrete steps were outlined by Messrs. Shultz, Perry, Kissinger, and Nunn in these pages on Jan. 4.
Robert S. Norris, Ph.D.Senior Research AssociateNatural Resources Defense CouncilWashington
Excerpted from Wall Street Journal, May 9, 2007- Letters to the editor