Playing down North Korea's bomb

October 26, 2006 20:27 |by Hahn Ho-Suk




US-DPRK Relations at the Dawn of the 21st Century



Part I: American Nuclear Threats and North Korea's Counter Strategy



(1) Preface:



Virtually all press organs and 'experts', both Korean and foreign, suffer from two basic errors in assessing the North Korean nuclear issue.

The first error is that they do not accept the fact that North Korea does possess nuclear weapons. Although some people suspect that North Korea may have nuclear devices, most tend to believe that it does not.

Some people claim that North Korea was about to manufacture nuclear devices in 1994, but it was forced to abandon its nuclear program in the face of fierce opposition by the United States. Others claim that North Korea has never had the technical ability to build nuclear devices, but the United States intentionally exaggerated North Korea's nuclear capability for its own strategic reasons - i.e., the US used the nuclear issue in order to bring North Korean down.

The second error is that they believe that North Korea pushed its nuclear program as a means of surviving its severe economic crisis in the 1990s.

The main reason for the failure to see the truth about North Korean nukes is the false rumours of North Korea's impending collapse and its imminent absorption by South Korea masked the gravity of the nuclear issue confronted by the United States. Today, these rumours have proven to be groundless but they have muddied the issues of North Korean nukes.

The press orgs and the experts were fed false intelligence on North Korea's nukes by the US intelligence services, which have not doubt obtained accurate information on North Korean nukes. I myself was misled by the misinformation spread by the 'experts'. Thus in my March 1998 article (Nuclear Crisis and Financial Crisis: Two Major Issues Facing Korea), I wrote that North Korea was only in the Plutonium extraction stage and lacked technical expertise to build nuclear explosives. However, after researching the issue for a year, I realized that I was wrong.

North Korea's nuclear program affects the strategic landscape of Northeast Asia in the 21st Century and it is the most important matter for the future of Korea. One should study this issue with all seriousness and diligence. One cannot afford to misjudge this problem.

In this article, I intend to prove that the US intelligence orgs have mislead the public about North Korea's nuclear capability.



(2) Korea's Dangerous Strategic Balance and The US Hostility toward North Korea



The most striking aspect of the post-armistice US-DPRK confrontation is that America's overwhelmingly superior nuclear retaliatory power was check-mated by North Korea's conventional forces in an atmosphere of quasi-war. For over 30 years after the armistice, the Korean peninsula was under relentless threats of nuclear strikes by the United States and of massive conventional strikes by North Korea. For over 40 years, the Korean people had to endure the nightmare of nuclear war in Korea.

The United States had fingered its nuclear trigger countless times in Korea and the Korean people were spared of nuclear holocaust only by chance. The world's only super power going after a weak non-nuclear state for over 25 years non-stop is unprecedented and it cannot be justified by any norm. It is a naked aggression.

It should be noted that during the Cold War era, US-DPRK nuclear war was more likely than US-USSR or US-China nuclear war. US-USSR and US-China conflicts were nuclear-nuclear, whereas US-DPRK conflicts were nuclear vs. conventional weapons. The United States wanted to keep up its pressure on North Korea and refused to defuse the powder-keg in Korea. There are three reasons for this:

1. Defusing the crisis in Korea counters the US military domination of Korea, which will lead to South Korean nuclear armament. This will unhinge the American policy of nuclear monopoly in the region.

2. Defusing the crisis in Korea will lead to diminished demands for American arms in the region.

3. The United States' hatred of North Korea goes deep. Gregory Henderson stated that the American hatred is more intense that its hatred of King George III of England, Nazi Germany, China and Cuba. The US nuclear strategy against North Korea during the past half a century comes from such a deep-rooted animosity. It goes without saying that this animosity is equally reciprocated by North Korea.

Why does America hate North Korea so much?

The hatred is rooted in the Korean War. This 3-year long war was the first total war waged by America on an Asian Communist nation. The outcome of this war is likely to determine the future of America. When the war broke out, America was confident of an easy victory, but the mighty victor over Germany and Japan ran into great difficulties in fighting a backward agrarian nation formed only two years ago.

After suffering grievously, the United States was forced to sue for armistice. Adam Winnington, a special reporter for the London Daily Worker, reported that "For the first time in history, the East Asian Communists sat down at a negotiating table as equals of the Americans" - a far-reaching political signal for the world to see.

Kim Jong Il said: "The Fatherland Liberation War was the first revolutionary war in which the Korean people fought off heroically the main imperialist nation of the world and protected our homeland." The United States suffered the first defeat in its history. Its ego as the world super power was dealt a humiliating blow. The US nuclear strategy against North Korea is driven more by revenge for its humiliation than anything else.

Peter Hayes wrote: "After the Korean War, the United States planned nuclear war in Korea under the guise of preemption. But its real intention was to the closure of the war against North Korea and China with nuclear weapons."

It is important to note that the US nuclear intentions manifest in various forms. South Korea mistakenly views the US nuclear threats as a "nuclear umbrella" against North Korean threats and turns a blind eye to the nuclear wasteland that South Korea will become. On the other hand, North Korea lives in constant fears of imminent nuclear war.

Public opinion in the United States is on the side of nuclear war on a tiny distant peninsula to restore America's honour as the Super Power. The only concern the Americans have is how to protect its troops and civilians in Korea in case of nuclear war in Korea. The Korean people - North and South - are of little concern for the Americans.



(3) Half Century of War Crisis: American Nuclear Threats and North Korea's Responses



(a)The US Nuclear War Plan

The US plan for nuclear retaliation was formulated during the Korean War. The US shipped about 40 nuclear warhead to an air base near Seoul during the war and planned to drop them on North Korean targets. Two of the top commanders, Douglas MacArthur and Matthew B. Ridgway had asked for Washington's approval to use the bombs. In 1953, Dwight D. Eisenhower formulated "New Look Strategy" that would use strategic bombers to drop nuclear bombs on invading forces.



(b) War Crisis in the 1960s

On December 2, 1967, USS Pueblo manned by Capt. Lloyd M. Bucher, six officers and 75 enlisted men of the US Navy and two civilians left the US naval base at Sasebo (Japan) on a spy mission. 50 days later at 13:45 hours, North Korea dispatched 4 P4 patrol boats and 2 MiG fighters to capture the American spy ship. One American sailor was killed during the capture.

Kim Jong Il personally directed this operation. Park In Ho, a People's Hero, participated in the operation as a marine and recalls: "We asked them for their nationality but they turned a search light on us and came toward us. They probably thought that no one would dare to mess with the Americans. They were mistaken. Our 7-men marine unit boarded the ship and captured all 80 of them in no time at all".

This was the first time an American warship was captured intact by the enemy in its 106-year history. The national security advisers met at the White House in rage. They considered the Pueblo capture a war provocation and wanted nuclear retaliation. According to then Secretary of Defence Clark Clifford, some hot heads wanted to drop nuclear bombs on Pyongyang. However, the cool heads prevailed. President Lyndon B. Johnson determined that America was in no position to engage in two wars - one in Vietnam and another in Korea.

Johnson's first move was to ask the Soviet Union to press North Korea to release Pueblo and her crew. Accordingly, the Soviets asked North Korea to comply with the US demand. But Kim Jong Il rebuffed the Soviet pressure and retorted that: "We will punish anyone who violates our territory in accordance with our law. They came on their own will but they will not be allowed to leave at will."

Kim Il Sung recalled: "Comrade Kim Jong Il told me that he will not release the captured Americans unless they signed a surrender document. We will keep Pueblo as a war trophy even after they sign the document. Pueblo will some day be made into a museum so that our future generations will remember our deeds."

The Americans were enraged and debated the following plans of action:

1. We will let North Korea know that we have many ways to retaliate.

2. We will impose air surveillance up to 80 km north of the DMZ.

3. We will continue naval intelligence using the spy ship Banner.

4. We will salvage the secret assets dumped into the sea by the Pueblo crew.

5. We will close off Wonsan by seeding 83 mines.

6. We will capture North Korean warships.

7. We will bomb the North Korean naval base at Mun-pyong-ri.

8. We will attack the KPA 6th Division HQ located 10 km north of the DMZ.

9. We will blockade North Korea.

The United States dispatched three carrier battle groups to Korea and deployed strategic bombers for nuclear attacks on North Korea. USS Enterprise accompanied by sixteen destroyers and battleships operated in waters 50 miles south of Ullung-do. In addition, the United States had 372 war planes ready to attack North Korea. For the first time since the Cuban crisis, a Presidential executive order was issued to mobilize 15,000 air reservists.

North Korea at the time was armed with conventional weapons only, but it refused to back down. On the contrary, it went on the offensive. At 21:00 hours of April 14th, 1968, North Korean troops attacked American and South Korean troops at Dae Sung-dong south of Panmunjom. They killed two Americans, two South Koreans and wounded several. From 1967 to 1969, four such attacks occurred killing eleven Americans.

It was the United States that blinked first. US Army Gen. Gilbert H. Woodward was forced to sign a surrender document on behalf of the United States Government and accepted eighty-two POWs and one corpse at a Panmumjom ceremony. This was December 23, 1968. Some thirty years from this day, the USS Pueblo is still in North Korea.

In December 1998, Kim Jong Il had the Pueblo moved from Wonsan to Dae-dong-gang, where another American warship, Gen. Sherman, was sunk in September 1866. Pueblo is moored at the site of the sinking as a witness to the continued aggression of the United States.

On April 15, 1969, an American EC-121 spy plane took off from an air base at Azuki (Japan). The plane carried thirty US Navy officers and enlisted men and one US marine. It flew along the east coast of North Korea on a spy mission. The plane lost radar contacts near Chung-jin at about 14:00 hours. About one hour and 55 min later, Radio Pyongyang announced that the Korean People's Army shot down the spy plane with a ground-to-air missile. The plane went down with its crew into the depth of the East Sea. Kim Jong Il commanded this operation.

Richard Nixon accused Lyndon Johnson of mishandling the Pueblo affair, but soon after his inauguration, Nixon was unexpectedly handed the EC-121 incident. Nixon dispatched two carrier battle groups to Korea and stationed F-4 fighter-bombers on South Korean bases.

As in the case of Pueblo, North Korea refused to be intimated by the American show of force and went on its own show of force. On August 17, barely 4 months after the spy plane incident, the North Korean Army shot down an American helicopter (OH-23) near Hangang. Three of the crewmen were wounded and captured alive. On December 3, 1969, the United States signed a letter of apology for the release of the crew.

(c) War Crisis of the 1970s

In June 1976, the United Stated began Team Spirit military exercises aimed at waging nuclear war on North Korea. On August 18th, less than two months after the exercise began, three American officers, seven enlisted men and five Korean workers appeared at the Bridge of No Return. They claimed that a large poplar tree near the bridge got in the way of an American observation post and proceeded to chop down the tree. Earlier on August 6th, they tried to cut down the tree but North Korean soldiers chased them away. A North Korean officer told the group to stop cutting the tree, but the American officers refused to obey and started a quarrel.

Kim Jong Il ordered that the Americans should be taught a lesson. He also told the troops not to harm the South Korean workers. The North Korean officer took off his wrist watch and knocked down an American officer in charge with one blow, whereupon, another American officer grabbed an axe from a Korean worker and threw it at the North Korean officer. The North Korean caught the axe in the air and axed the American to death. An American captain and a lieutenant were killed and eight Americans were injured.

It is interesting to note that the whole event was video-taped by the Americans from an observation post. Another point to note is that even though an American quick reaction force unit stood nearly, the order to counter-attack never came. The US released only the part of the video that showed the North Korean officer axing the Americans and hid the scenes leading to it from the public. The world opinion sympathized with the Americans and the North Koreans were shown to be barbaric savages. The Non-Aligned Nations Conference at Colombo voted down North Korea's demand for US troop withdrawal and confederal union of Korea on the same day.

The US Commander in Korea, Gen. Richard Stilwell, was vacationing in Japan at the time and upon hearing the news of the axe killings, he rushed back to Korea in the back seat of a fighter plane. The United States again dispatched a carrier battle group and strategic bombers to Korea on account of a poplar tree under the code name Operation Paul Bunyan. The Americans moved tactical nukes to the DMZ area in plain view of the North Koreans. B52 bombers loaded with nuclear bombs left Okinawa and flew toward Pyongyang. They would make sharp u-turns upon reaching the skies over the DMZ. Kim Jong Il was not impressed and laughed at the American moves.

On August 21, about 7 O'clock in the morning, a company of US army engineers escorted by US and South Korean special forces units arrived at the poplar tree. Twenty troop carrying helicopters protected by seven armed helicopters hovered above. The North Koreans fired at the command helicopter carrying the American commander (Gen. Brady), which crash-landed. Later that day, an emergency meeting was held at Panmunjum and North Korea handed a memo from the North Korean Supreme Commander to the UN Commander.

The United States contracted the Science Applications, Inc. (SAI) to research nuclear war on North Korea. According to the SAI report, the United States must destroy with nuclear weapons at least 30% of North Korea's tanks, artillery and other equipment, 40% of the troops and 50% of its communication systems. The report went on to say that at least 30 nuclear bombs must be fired from 15 km from Seoul.

From 1960 to the 1970s, the United States was engaged in Vietnam and had no resources to fight another war in Korea. But the 1970s heralded the end of the Vietnam War and the United States ratcheted up its nuclear threats on North Korea. US helicopters ferried nuclear weapons from storage locations some 35 to 50 miles south of the DMZ. In 1975, the United States, fearing North Korean attacks on its nukes at the DMZ, relocated them to rear areas.

In June 1975, US Secretary of Defence James Schlesinger said that in case of a North Korean attack, the United States would mount nuclear attacks or drastically increase its ground troops. Gen. James Hollingsworth stated that the US had a '9-day war plan', according to which North Korea would be defeated in a few days in a violent clash with 700-800 air sorties.

On the occasion of Park Jung Hee's assassination on October 26, 1979, the United States dispatched a carrier battle group to the waters of Chejudo and on November 14th, it dropped 11 life-size dummy nuclear bombs in a practice run.

(d) War Crisis of the 1980s

The Reagan's hard line administration made the Korean situation worse. The United States practiced its deep strike and air-land battle doctrine in Korea. The United States expanded combat troops to 191,700, of which 118,000 were Koreans and 73,700 were Americans.

What did North Korea do to counter the US threats?

First, in 1983, North Korea moved its strike forces stationed at north of Pyongyang and Wonsan to the front areas.

Second, North Korea conducted three joint naval exercises with the Soviet navy from 1986 to 1989. The Soviet Union was leaning toward detente with America at the time and these joint exercises were ineffectual.

Third, North Korea proposed a 3-party peace conference of North, South and the United States. North Korea for the first time was willing to negotiate with South Korea, but the United States turned down this proposal.

(e) The War Crisis of the 1990s

The nuclear threats intensified as George Bush left the White House and Clinton took over. Clinton's 'Presidential Review Document #13' states that the United States will mount preemptive strikes on North Korea if it developed nuclear weapons or long-range missiles.

North Korea's decision to withdraw from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty took the United States by surprise. It shook the nuclear foundation of the American hegemony. As Pat Buchanan said, it was "indeed a wakeup call to the us. It was the end of the post-Cold War euphoria". The United States was at a loss on how to respond to North Korea's nuclear program.

One March 16, 1994, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that North Korea prevented its inspection team from examining the radiochemical laboratory at Yongbyon. The United States used this as an excuse to break the DPRK-US terms of agreement and revived it Team Spirit military exercises.

On April 28, 1994, Robert Gallucci proposed at a DPRK-US meeting that the United States will scrap Team Spirit exercises if North Korea abided by nuclear safeguards agreement and participated in north-south dialogs. But Gen. Gary Luck opposed the Gallucci proposal on the ground that the exercises were needed to safeguard the US troops in Korea.

On May 13, 1994, North Korea removed spent fuel rods from a 5-MW reactor before the arrival of an inspection team, thus enabling outside agencies to estimate the plutonium stock of North Korea. The United States threatened to bring in the UN Security Council for a hostile resolution.



(4) North Korea's War Plan


North Korea has been at the receiving end of America's nuclear threats for half a century and had to maintain military counter measures. The post-war strategy is as follows:

First, it had to develop tactics unique to the Korean situation. Kim Il Sung said: "We must develop tactics suitable for our geography and physical characteristics." North Korean tactics include blitz-krieg, ambush, encirclement, mountain fighting, night fighting, large-scale maneouvres, regular army and special forces, and so on.

North Korean strategy is to destroy war machines all across South Korea at the same time and occupy key positions. Instead of pushing back enemy lines, North Korean plan is to attack the enemy from all angles inside and out. It plans to attack rear area military assets and the enemy troops in three days or less before the main reinforcements arrive.

Second, development of a strong army based on organization and mental discipline. Modernization and universal military training are the foundation of North Korean military. Kim Il Sung said: "We must possess the revolutionary belief that we can defeat the enemy with our inferior weapons. We must rely not on nuclear weapons but on our people united against the enemy."

Third, war supplies must be stocked for long struggles. Kim Il Sung said: "We must turn our plants and factories for war material production when war breaks out. We must ensure that every factory will produce war material. Our war reserves must be for several years".

Fourth, underground fortress. The most effective defence against the American nuclear attacks is underground bunkers. Underground facilities are needed to mount counter offensive, for producing war supplies and for sheltering the people.



(5) North Korea's Nuclear Objectives

US intelligence reports indicate that North Korea can occupy Seoul in 2-4 days using conventional weapons alone. South Korean strategy is to defend Seoul first and then go on the offensive. It has three lines of defence against North Korean invasion. The first line has 30,000 troops which are within range of North Korean artillery and North Korea can easily break this line with its heavy guns.

There are two major reasons why one would consider North Korean forces superior to South Korean forces even in terms of conventional weapons:

First, the South Korean army was created by the United States and it has been under the US tutelage and control ever since. It has significant combat capacity but it is short on operational command and wartime operational control. South Korea has peacetime operational control of its army which may be taken away by the United States. It is essentially a servant army and has no tactical intelligence capability of its own, being dependent on the US.

Second, North Korea's guns can strike South Korea's capital city - the heart and head of South Korea. Seoul is a hostage to North Korea's guns and a deterrent to US attacks on North Korea. North Korea has several thousands heavy guns hidden in 1,800 underground bunkers. These guns can hit Seoul and Inchon with 10,000 shells per minute and turn the heartland of South Korea into a sea of fire. Natural gas pipelines criss-crossing the under belly of these cities will explode and the resulting death tolls will be astronomical. Civilian refugees and automobiles will clog the roads and hamper military transports.

Some scholars assert that North Korean forces are inferior to South Korean forces and hence North Korea needs nuclear weapons to even the balance. They are wrong in their assertion. North Korea holds more trump cards than South Korea. There is no reason why North Korea should invest huge sums of money and political risks for nuclear development.

North Korea's nuclear program is not intended to counter South Korea's military but it is solely to counter the American nuclear threats. North Korea knows that the only deterrent to the American nuclear strikes is its own nuclear capability.



(6) Offensive Strategy and Political Liability of Nuclear Bombs

It has been said that North Korea was forced to develop nuclear weapons to defend itself from US nuclear attacks. However, it is wrong to assume that North Korean nukes are purely for defensive usage. It should be noted that North Korea's military doctrine is based on strategic offensives.

Kim Jong Il said: "If the enemy sharpens black sabres, then we will sharpen red swords. If the enemy invades us, we will gladly respond with revolutionary warfare."

What is meant by "revolutionary" war offensive strategy? It means North Korea will strike America's heartland and unite Korea in case of US aggression. Kim Il Sung said: "If the United States bombs our country, we will promptly retaliate. If the enemy strikes us, we will strike back." Kim's statement implies that North Korea has retaliation capability, some means of striking the continental USA.

Kim Il Sung said: "We must continue to strengthen our military capabilities. Our Party intends to unite the country peacefully. But if the enemy gets in our way militarily, we will use force to unite the country."

The problem is that North Korea cannot defeat the United States, which has a vast stock of weapons of mass destruction. North Korea knows that the only effective offensive weapon against US aggression is nuclear. North Korea's conventional forces have little effect on the US military. For this reason, North Korea embarked on the road to nuclear armament.

North Korea faced a serious political dilemma. If it became known that North Korea has nuclear weapons, South Korea and Japan would develop their own nukes. Nuclear-armed Japan and South Korea are not in North Korea's best interest. North Korea had to find a solution to this dilemma and nuke-free Korea was the answer.

North Korea proposed nuke-free Korea in 1986. From 1989 on, North Korea has repeatedly claimed that it had no nuclear program and pushed nuke-free Korea. North Korea's primary objective was to freeze South Korea's nuclear program without freezing its own.

It is interesting to note that the United States has been pushing for a nuke-free Korea as well. The US wanted both North and South to abandon nuclear ambitions and planned to remove its tactical nukes from Korea. In fact, it is believed that all US nuclear weapons had been taken out of Korea by the end of 1991.

North Korea completed a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant at Yongbyon in June 1992. The United States believed that North Korea could achieve nuclear capability soon after and frantically searched for means of ascertaining North Korea's nuclear intentions. The United States forced South Korea to accept North Korea's nuke-free Korea proposal. North-South joint declaration of nuke-free Korea was announced on January 20, 1992 and became effective February 19th. This effectively shut down South Korea's nuclear program.

Kim Il Sung said: "We do not have the desire or the means to build nuclear weapons. We have stated this several times already. We have no use for nuclear weapons - even if we had them. It is unthinkable for us to use nuclear weapons on our fellow countrymen in South Korea."

It is easy to misread Kim's statement. Kim asserts that he will not use nukes on South Korea and that he will not build nukes to strike South Korea. But he does mention that his offensive strategy against the United States is based on nuclear weapons. Kim's intention is to use his nukes on US targets in America and use his conventional forces to occupy South Korea.



(7) Military Nuclear Program and Civilian Nuclear Program

North Korea's armament factories and key military facilities are hidden underground. The main reason for going sub terrain is to survive US air attacks and go on the offensive. It is also to foil the US spy satellites. In view of this fact, it is strange that North Korea has allowed US intelligence to discover and monitor its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon.

The first detection of North Korea's nuclear program at Yongbyon was made in April 1982. The US intelligence experts determined that North Korean nuclear program began in 1979. Since then US spy cameras hovered over Yongbyon continuously. In March 1986, US intelligence analysts discovered cylindrical craters on the banks of Ku-ryong-gang and a rectangular building the size of two football fields.

American nuke experts surmised that the craters indicate that North Korea was in the second stage of nuclear program - i.e., experimental high-explosive denotations for nuke triggers. Indeed, North Korea conducted about 70 tests of high-explosives from 1980 to 1991.

In February 1987, the US detected cells inside the rectangular building and the experts determined that the cells were for plutonium separation. Soon after, North Korea covered up the building so that the US spy cameras could no longer see its insides. This intensified the American anxiety.

There are several puzzles here. Why did North Korea conduct as many as seventy high-explosive tests so close to the suspected nuclear facility? Why did North Korea leave traces of its tests being fully aware of the US spy cameras hover above? Conventional wisdom would put a roof over any building that has sensitive innards. But why the roof-less building?

North Korea has numerous underground facilities, but it chose to build a nuclear facility above ground. The only plausible explanation is that North Korea was out to deceive the US. The world's experts debated if the Yongbyon facility had progressed far enough for nuclear bombs or not and they were oblivious to North Korea's other nuclear facilities.

Why did North Korea make its Yongbyon facility so visible?

North Korea used the facility to force the United States to a bargaining table. American suspicion that the facility was for nuclear bombs played into the hands of North Korea. In February 1990, North Korea's delegates to the International Atomic Energy Control Agency demanded, in return for allowing inspection of the Yongbyon facility, that the United States must remove its nukes from South Korea and that it must stop the Team Spirit military exercises. The United States refused to go along.

On July 21, 1990, North Korea stated that it would open the Yongbyon facility for inspections, if the United States promised not to mount nuclear attacks on North Korea and removed all nuclear weapons from South Korea. On June 11, 1991, the United States finally agreed to the North Korean demands.

After forcing the US to forego nuclear attacks on North Korea, it moved onto the next phase: US-DPRK bilateral negotiations. On April 1, 1994, North Korea announced that the Yongbon issue was for the US and DPRK to settle. The United States promised easing of economic sanctions and diplomatic relations if North Korea allowed inspections of the Yongbyon facility.

If North Korea had no nuclear weapons and the Yongbyon facility were the only nuclear facility, then the United States could have easily mounted preemptive strikes on the facility. The fact of the matter is that North Korea has two parallel tracks of nuclear programs: one for military applications and one for civilian applications.

The Yongbyon facility is for civilian usage and not for nuclear weapons. North Korea obtained reactor technology from East Germany, the Soviet Union, and Czechoslovakia in the 1980s. On December 29, 1986, North Korea established the Atomic Energy Institute under Prof. Choe Ha Gun, a noted nuclear physicist.

In 1970, Kim Il Sung ordered the North Korean Academy of Sciences, Military and Security organs to speed up nuclear weapons development. The International Atomic Energy inspectors found that the Yongbyon facility was some 30 years old and quite dated, and that it would be difficult to produce any nuclear weapons at the facility.

One must be aware that the Yongbyon facility is not intended for weapons production and that North Korea has other nuclear facilities for military applications. In 1998, the US intelligence detected evidence of high-explosive tests at a site 30 km from the Yongbyon facility. In February 1993, Western intelligence agencies found evidence of military nuclear facilities built in the 1960's with Soviet technology. The facilities began plutonium production early on. The US intelligence suspects that there is a secret military facility in Yanggang-do. In September 1991, France's Aeronautical Research Centre found evidence of another nuclear facility in Pyongang Buk-do. It was built inside a mountain. It is believed that North Korea has four nuclear facilities for weapons production.

It is clear that North Korea intended to use the Yongbyon facility for political gains after having stock-piled nuclear weapons built at secrete nuclear facilities elsewhere. It was North Korea's nuclear weapons that forced the United States to the negotiation tables and the Yongbyon facility was a face-saving fig leaf for the United States for its sudden reversal of anti-DPRK policies.



(8) North Korea's Nuclear Program and the US Acceptance

North Korea's nuclear program is shrouded in secrecy. There is no external source that can break the secrecy. There are three reasons for this:

First, North Korea developed nuclear weapons on its own and no outside agents were involved. North Korea was forced to go alone because no other nations would help it. So-called alliances or pacts counted precious little. North Korea refused to be subservient to China or the USSR and hence these nations refused to provide any assistance to North Korea's nuclear program.

In September 1980, North Korea started construction of a 5-MW reactor at Yongbyon with its own money and technology. This reactor was completed in October 1987. This reactor used natural uranium and graphite moderators. The US intelligence examined air samples from this reactor and determined that it was based on a British design - the 50-MW Calder Hall magnox.

North Korea's self-reliance on nuclear development made it possible to continue its program even after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990. Had North Korea relied on external sources for its nuclear program, it would have been fatal.

Second, even if US intelligence had the complete story on North Korea's nuclear program, it would have to hide it from the public. It would neither deny nor confirm it. This is common practice not limited to North Korean issues. For example, both Israel and South Africa possess nuclear weapons, but US intelligence is silent on the subject.

It is noteworthy that the United States has decided to live with North Korea's nukes. This came about in March 1994. The United States was more keen on preventing North Korea from making more bombs than on the bombs North Korea already had.

Third, North Korea has informed the United States that it has nuclear weapons. No other nations were informed. It was to North Korea's advantage to let the US know that it has nukes, because without this knowledge, the US would have continued its belligerence against North Korea. The US might have mounted preemptive strikes on North Korea.

When did North Korea convince the US that it did indeed have nuclear weapons?

On June 15, 1994, former President Jimmy Carter passed through Panmumjon to meet Kim Il Sung. Carter was shown convincing evidence of North Korea's nuclear bombs. Kim also told Carter in no uncertain terms that North Korea will attack if President Clinton continued his anti-DPRK policies. Carter was so concerned about the war potential that he woke up at 3 O'Clock in the morning and sent his aid Marion Creekmore to Panmumjom to relay an urgent message to Clinton via a secure line to the White House.

Kim Il Sung told Carter that North Korea is ready and willing to exchange nuclear strikes with the United States. Carter was supposed to deliver Clinton's ultimatum to Kim Il Sung, but instead he was given Kim's nuclear ultimatum, which was totally unexpected. Soon after Carter's return home, Clinton dropped his bellicose stance and proposed a peaceful resolution.



(9) When did North Korea build its first nuke?

Even though North Korea's nuclear secret is known to only two parties - the US and DPRK - there exists enough evidence to draw some conclusions. We can look at North Korea's nuclear scientists, engineering and various time-lines.

(a) North Korea's Nuclear Scientists

Chen Soe Sun was primarily responsible for China's first nuclear bomb and Abdul Kaidr Khan was the Pakistan bomb-maker. Who was North Korea's bomb-maker?

North Korea's bomb was made possible by three noted scientists:

* Dr. Lee Sung Ki, a world-class chemist. Dr. Lee Sung Ki (1905 - 1996) was noted for his invention of vi nylon and his devotion to make man-made textiles for the poor of Korea. He invented high-explosives for North Korea's artillery - called "Lee Sung Ki canons" in his honour. Dr. Lee was the first director of North Korea's Atomic Energy Agency and directed its nuclear weapons program.

* Dr. Do Sang Rok (1903 - 1990) was a quantum field theorist. He published research papers on quantum mechanics in Japan and the US as early as 1930. He was an expert on nuclear matters and nuclear energy. He built his own particle accelerator and conducted North Korea's first experiment on nuclear reactions.

* Dr. Han In Suk was born in South Korea and studied physics in Japan and Germany before Liberation. He taught physics at the Seoul National University after Liberation but fled to North Korea soon after. After the Korean War, he studied physics at Moscow University. He returned to Pyongyang in 1960 and published numerous research papers on nuclear physics.

In addition to these three renowned scientists, there were many other outstanding scientists: Dr. Kim Gyng Wan, a chemist and president of Kim Chaik University; Dr. Yo Gyong Ku, a nephew of Yo Wun Hyung, who studied nuclear science in the USSR; Dr. Jung Gun, Dr. Choe Hak Soon, Dr. Keh Yong Soon and Dr. Park Kwan Oh. Several hundred of North Korea's top scientists studied at the Dubna Nuclear Research Institute in the USSR.

Thus North Korea had ample manpower for nuclear weapon development. Dr. Do Sang Rok was awarded the 'Kim Il Sung' award in 1973 and Dr. Lee Sung Ki was similarly honoured in 1980. These two scientists were honoured again in 1986, most likely for North Korea's first nuclear bomb.

(b) North Korea's Engineering Technology

North Korea started to promote engineering technology early on. Even though North Korea had never built even a single steam locomotive, it managed to design and build electric trains that required no less than 14,000 different parts by 1961. Construction of Pyongyang subways began in that year. Since 1980, North Korea has been making 300-HP dozers, 10-cubic meter drills, 3,000-HP high speed engines, 10-KVA generators and 4,200-HP electric locomotives. In the 1990's, North Korea was able to build 10,000-ton press, 18m tunnelling and 20-m large sea-going vessels.

Kim Jong Il said: "Science and technology form the foundation of our revolution and to ignore science and technology is to ignore our revolution." Kim Jong Il pushed hard for advances in science and technology. Military science and engineering were high on the priority in North Korea. Kim Jong Il understood that modern warfare required advanced technology.

North Korea built its first submarine in 1975. Building submarines requires advanced engineering. Five subs were built in 1976 alone. In 1970, North Korea began to produce T-59 battle tanks, RPG-7 anti-tank rockets, 130-mm and 180-mm self-propelled guns, 152-mm howitzers, M-1973 armoured cars, missile speed boats, 1,500-ton frigates and 1,400-ton R-class large submarines.

In late 1970, North Korea began to produce K-61 land-sea dual armoured vehicles, T-62 tanks, high-speed landing ships and Frog 5/7 missiles. As early as 1960, North Korea began to manufacture virtually all parts of its MiG-15 fighters. Starting in 1970, it began to build MiG planes under a license agreement with the Soviet Union. By 1980, it could build some 70% of its MiG parts and in 1990, it began to build MiG-29 fighters.

North Korea has made considerable advances in electronics. Kim Jong Il said: "We must build the most modern plants for electronics. We must take our electronics industry to the most advanced level in the world." North Korea's #69 Electronics Plant is comparable to South Korea's Samsung plant. It makes 50-Meg DRAMs. In 1986, the Mirim College was established for electronic warfare.

In April 1955, North Korea established an atomic and nuclear research institute in spite of the devastation of the Korean War. On March 26, 1956, North Korea and the USSR signed a joint-research agreement and over 200 North Korean scientists went to the Dubna Nuclear Research Institute. North Korea signed a joint nuclear research pact with the USSR in September 1959, and by 1960, North Korea had acquired the Soviet Purex reprocessing technology.

In January 1962, the Soviet Union helped North Korea build a civilian-use IRT-2000 research reactor at Yongbyon. A nuclear research lab was established in February 1964. North Korea has invested more than 5 billion dollars in nuclear research.

In September 1980, North Korea began construction of the #2 reactor at Youngbyon and tested it in 1986. It went into operation in October 1987. South Korea's first reactor went into operation in December 1994 with thermal power output of 30 MW. The South Korean reactor had a core of 0.5 meter in diameter and 0.7 m high. In comparison, the #2 reactor is 6.6 meters in diameter and 6 meters tall. The South Korean reactor fuel capacity was 50kg and the #2 capacity is 50,000kg.

In 1984, North Korea began construction of the #3 reactor at Yongbyon. This was to be a gigantic 50-200-MW monster. By the time the US intelligence discovered it, it was already half completed. It was projected to be completed by 1995. Nuclear experts estimated that this reactor could produce 7-8 kg of plutonium per year enough for one or two nuclear bombs.

Former CIA director James Woolsey stated that North Korea has most likely enough plutonium for at least one bomb. The Russian intelligence reported in 1990 that North Korea had bombs. Das Stern magazine of Germany wrote that North Korea secretly acquired 56 kg of plutonium from Russia in 1992. The International Peace Research Centre in Sweden estimates that North Korea has 4-5 bombs.

It should be noted that Pakistan and North Korea embarked on a nuclear program at about the same time. Pakistan's military technology is less advanced than North Korea's, but it managed to build nuclear bombs. It is unlikely that North Korea with its advanced military technology lagged behind Pakistan in the nuclear race.

In 1974, South Korea started its nuclear program, but the United States shut it down. Had it not been for the United States, South Korea would have built its first bomb by 1980. North Korea's military technology was not behind South Korea's and it is plausible that North Korea would have built its first bomb in the 1980's.

(c) North Korea's First Bomb

When did North Korea begin its nuclear program?

The Nuclear Chemical Defence Division of the KPA General Staff was established in 1961, which had a command and 7 sections, the 55th Research, the 710th Research and the 398th Research labs. From this fact, one may assume that North Korea's nuclear program was initiated around 1960 and nuclear weapons were developed in the 1970's.

According to a Russian intelligence report, in 1970, Kim Il Sung ordered North Korea's Academy of Sciences, military and security agencies to build nuclear weapons. In May 1981, North Korean officials told a visiting East German delegation that "We must have atomic bombs". The critical point here is whether North Korea's nuclear program began in 1990 or 1970. It was no doubt 1970 when the program was launched.

What was the political situation in the 1970s?

In those days, North Korea was not behind South Korea economically. The United States was defeated in Vietnam and North Korea's star was rising high among the non-aligned countries. President Carter wanted to take out US troops from South Korea. President Park Jung Hee's nuclear program was under fire by the United States and the US-ROK relations were at a low point. It was under these favourable conditions that North Korea inaugurated its nuclear program.

Prof. Lee Young Hee states that: "In 1991, the Soviet Union informed North Korea that it would stop providing nuclear umbrella to North Korea, upon which North Korea launched an all-out program to develop nuclear-missiles."

Prof. Lee is wrong on two points:

* First, unlike the US-ROK treaty, the USSR-DPRK pact never included nuclear protection. The former USSR nuclear weapons in the Far East were not for providing protection for North Korea and Lee's claim is groundless.

* Second, North Korea's nuclear program began in 1970, not in 1990 as claimed by Lee. Lee's claim that North Korea was forced to develop nuclear weapons as a desperate defensive measure against American aggression misses the point that North Korea's main strategy is offensive, direct nuclear attacks on America.

The reason why we dwell so much on when North Korea's nuclear program began is that we can infer from it just when North Korea began to produce nuclear warhead from the average time it took other nations to develop nukes. It took the United States four years to build the bomb. It took other nations 6-7 years to fabricate nuclear bombs from the day they acquired fissionable materials.

It is therefore safe to assume that it took North Korea 6-7 years to build its first bomb, which puts North Korea's first bomb at 1986 or so. It was 1979 when North Korea acquired plutonium extraction technology and 1983 when North Korea completed high-explosive tests for nuclear triggers. In 1989, North Korea became the fourth nation to conduct a high-altitude fusion test.

In spite of these facts, foreign experts claim that North Korea's nuclear program began in 1990. In February 1989, then Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze stated that North Korea will have nuclear capability soon, but a classified Russian intelligence report in the same time period stated North Korea already had one or two bombs. High-ranking Chinese officials visiting the US War College in February 1994 told the Americans that North Korea had one or two bombs.

America's foremost expert on North Korean military, Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr., said that North Korea built its first bomb sometime between 1990 and 1991. The German magazine Das Stern published an article on March 14, 1993, which states that North Korea built its first nuclear warhead in February 1990. This article was based on a KGB report, which also said that North Korea had already deployed 6-7 nuclear weapons.

Even though both China and Russia acknowledged North Korea's nuclear capability, the United States refused to go along. The 1993 National Intelligence Estimate showed that the US intelligence community was split in two camps: the CIA and the DIA believed that North Korea had the bomb, whereas the State Department and the White House believed otherwise. In March 1992, the US State Dept stated that it would take North Korea at least two more years to build the bomb.

On December 12, 1993, then Secretary of State Espens told NBC that North Korea had enough plutonium for one or two bombs and it might already have one nuclear device. In 1992, the US State Dept stated that North Korea had the technical capability to build crude nuclear explosives that can be mounted on trains or transport planes.

In contrast, the US CIA accepts that North Korea has the bomb but refuses to divulge any details. DCIA Robert M. Gates told a congressional committee on February 25, 1992 that North Korea had a plenty of bomb materials and it could make nuclear bombs in a matter of two-three months. In a closed session, Gates stated that North Korea already had the bomb.

After the Gulf War, the US intelligence learned that Iraq's nuclear program was far more advanced that what they had believed. The CIA was taken aback by this startling fact and formed the Nonproliferation Centre of more than 100 nuclear experts to reevaluate its nuclear intelligence on North Korea. It was concluded that North Korea had a large stockpile of fissionable materials and that it had one or two bombs.

However, the CIA went on to emphasize that the North Korean bombs were crude. The reason why the CIA qualifies North Korean bombs as "crude" or "primitive" is to convey the notion that the North Korean bombs pose no threat to the United States.

Now we come to the question of North Korea's bomb test. It is known that North Korea has not test-fired any nuclear weapon. Some people use this fact to negate North Korea's bombs. On March 14, 1992, the Russian weekly "Argumenty i Fakty" wrote that North Korea built a bomb test site about a year ago and that it did not explode any test bomb for fear of revealing its secret nuclear program. A classified CIA document states that North Korea already has nuclear bombs and an underground test site ready to go.

There are two points to consider here:

# First, test explosion is not required for making the bomb. India conducted a test explosion in 1974 and became a nuclear power. Israel and South Africa joined India soon after even though neither had test-fired a bomb. Enriched uranium bombs are so easy to make and no testing is required. The problem is acquiring enough enriched uranium for the bomb. This requires enormous amount of electricity far beyond the capability of North Korea, but it is likely that North Korea found a chemical way to enrich uranium.

A South Korean military expert said that North Korea's explosives have extremely high initial velocity of 900 m/sec. Such high explosives are used in gun type assembly of nuclear bombs. Such a device is basically a heavy gun with fissionable materials propelled to high speed, temperature and pressure for chain reactions. Gun type devices are much easier to trigger than spherical (implosion) devices that require advanced triggers.

The bomb dropped on Hiroshima was a gun barrel assembly and the one dropped on Nagasaki was an implosion type. The latter was built after a test explosion whereas the former did not require any test. It is assumed that North Korean bombs are of gun barrel assembly and did not require test explosion.

# Second, North Korea could rely on the test data gathered by other nations. Pakistan began its nuclear program in 1970. Its then president Bhutto said: "Even if we had to live on grass, we must build the bomb." Pakistan acquired nuclear technology from Germany and England. It obtained bomb design data from China. Pakistan's first bomb was made in 1980. The Pakistani bomb test-fired on May 18, 1998 was a gun assembly uranium bomb. Today, Pakistan is known to have about 20 nuclear warheads.

It is assumed that Pakistan shared its nuclear data with North Korea in exchange for North Korea's missile technology. In October 1982, Pakistan and North Korea signed a science, technology and culture agreement. North Korea dispatched its scientists to Pakistan to observe its nuclear program.



(10) Conclusion


From the armistice till 1980, the Korean peninsula was subjected to American nuclear threats and North Korean threats of invasion with conventional weapons. There were numerous touch-and-go war crisis. In the face of the incessant nuclear war threat by the United States, North Korea's revolutionary offensive strategy evolved.

North Korea's military might surpasses that of South Korea. North Korea's offensive strategy is to mount massive nuclear strikes on the continental USA in the event of US attacks on North Korea. North Korea has military and civilian nuclear programs in parallel.

North Korea built its first nuclear bomb in 1986 or so. The main reason why North Korea keeps its nuclear arsenal secret is that it had developed its bombs on its own without any help from other nations and that the United States has decided to accept this fait accompli.

After building its first bomb in 1986, North Korea spent ten years to build underground nuclear facilities for military applications. By 1996, North Korea's emphasis turned to long-range missiles to carry the bombs. It is likely that North Korea has developed more advanced nuclear devices suitable for missile delivery.

It is well-known that the Big Five - The US, Russia, China, Britain and France - have nuclear bombs. These nations sit as the permanent members of the UN Security Council and control the world's political and military order. There are other nuclear nations: namely, North Korea, India, Pakistan, Israel and South Africa. These nations belong to the Little Five nuclear club.

Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy and Japan can go nuclear but the US nonproliferation policy prevents them from building their own bombs. Among the Little Five nations, India was the first to explode a test bomb in 1974 and conducted three tests in 1998. India announced its nuclear status on August 17, 1999. India was helped by Russia.

India's arch-enemy Pakistan developed its nuclear program with the tacit approval of the United States. It conducted an underground test in 1980. Israel and South Africa were covertly aided by the United States. After the collapse of the Apartheid in South Africa, Nelson Mandela's black government made public of its nuclear program. Thus, of the Little Five nuclear nations, only North Korea and Israel remain silent on their nuclear program.

Israel neither confirms nor denies its membership to the nuclear club. The United States helped Israeli nuclear program and accepts its nuclear membership. For thirty years, the United States has pretended that it had no knowledge of the Israeli bomb. Israel is surrounded by hostile Arab nations and had to fight four wars of survival between 1948 and 1973. It is assumed that Israel exploded an atomic bomb in 1974. Since then Israeli military superiority has prevented the Arab nations from mounting another war. The Israeli bomb forced the Arabs to conference tables.

In the Far East, a similar situation prevailed in the 1980s. North Korea, South Korea and Taiwan were on the road of nuclear development. Even though the United States covertly aided its allies Pakistan, Isabel and South Africa to the nuclear club membership, it refused to allow its client states Taiwan and South Korea to become nuclear.

The United States was firmly opposed to North Korea's nuclear program and attempted to scrap North Korea's nuclear program by military means. However, it was too late for the United States, for North Korea already had nuclear weapons and the United States was forced to back down from nuclear confrontation with North Korea.



Hahn Ho-suk, Director. Centre for Korean Affairs This is an English abstract of the original paper in Korean