Monday, February 21, 2011

Korea: Old worries, new conerns about North Korea

The Korea Times

US, ROK concerned over NK nuke test in early 70s
By Kim Young-jin

South Korea and the United States planned to mobilize nuclear test detection equipment near the border with North Korea in the early 1970s, a disclosed diplomatic cable revealed Monday, in an early sign of concern over Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

Dubbed “Clear Sky,” the project aimed to install an acoustic detector and electromagnetic pulse detector at a U.S. military base in Wonju, some 90 kilometers east of Seoul, according to a cable released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade 40 years after it was written.

"This intelligence collection project will significantly enhance our knowledge of the technical competence in the nuclear field of potential adversaries and will materially assist in our joint efforts to improve the mutual defense of the South, Lt. Gen. Robert N. Smith of the U.S. Air Force said in an October 1971 letter to the ministry.

Further information on the project was not made available.

The public release of the document, which was routine, came amid heightened concern over the North’s program.

After plutonium-based nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, the North revealed in November a sprawling uranium enrichment program that outside experts fear could be upgraded to produce nuclear weapons.

Smith, who was part of a joint committee overseeing U.S. troops here, recommended that the sides "limit the dissemination of information on this project to a minimum number of persons," due to the sensitivity of the issue.

The document did not mention the North by name, but it is seen a clear reference to the communist country given the proximity of the site to the border.

On Sunday, Seoul officials said the North is digging additional tunnels at a nuclear site in the country’s northwest, raising speculation about a possible third nuclear test.

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