Letter: Nuclear weapons in North Korea

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The Independent Online
Sir: Mitchell Reiss comes to the right conclusion ('A dangerous sort of test case', 15 November) about the Clinton administration and its approach to North Korea's reputed nuclear ambitions. It would indeed 'make no sense' for the United States to attempt a 'military' strike against North Korea, but for rather more reasons than Mr Reiss adduces.

One is the US's long-standing support for Israel's nuclear weapons programme: if the US were serious about non-proliferation, the Israeli programme would stop. North Korea's proliferatory motives are quite similar to Israel's: North Korea has lost its superpower supporter - as Israel fears it might - and it is subject to local threats to which nuclear weapons appear an effective answer. For North Korea, this local threat is the US presence in South

Korea.

This presence is certainly peculiar. Because there has been no peace treaty formally to conclude the Korean War, which ended 40 years ago, South Korea's own armed forces are not under national control but under a UN commander-in-chief. This person has always been the US general commanding the US forces in South Korea, which undoubtedly held nuclear weapons until President George Bush announced the withdrawal of short-range US nuclear weapons from everywhere.

This UN/US commander-in- chief reports to the UN Secretary- General about the 'UN Command' and about the activities of the Armistice Commission. He does not report about the nuclear forces the US has maintained in South Korea, nor about the annual, 'nuclear', Team Spirit exercises. This year, 126,000 troops took part in Team Spirit, simulating combat up against the North Korean border, with nuclear-

capable bombers flying in from Japan, and so on.

The South Koreans have been conspicuously agreeing with the Japanese that goading North Korea is wrong, and that even economic sanctions through the UN Security Council would 'not be a good method' of dealing with the problem.

If the Clinton administration is now seriously thinking about bombing North Korea, what role does this imply for the Armistice Commission? And, indeed, for the UN, whose local commander-in- chief would be conducting the operation?

Yours faithfully,

ELIZABETH YOUNG

London, W2

16 November

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