U.S. considered surgical air strikes against North Korea, William Perry says

The general consensus at the time was the strike would produce no U.S. casualties and there was no risk of radiation damage for any pilots conducting air raids.
By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |   Dec. 3, 2015 at 11:44 AM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- The United States was preparing a surgical strike to target North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear facility in 1994 at the time of the first nuclear crisis, according to former Defense Secretary William Perry.

Perry, who is to release a memoir of his years in government, told South Korean television network SBS plans were being prepared for a surgical strike against North Korea's nuclear production site after Pyongyang refused to let in inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The general consensus at the time was the strike would produce no U.S. casualties and there was no risk of radiation damage for any pilots conducting air raids.

Perry told Voice of America that his account of the past in his upcoming book is not an endorsement of strategies to bomb North Korea, but rather to shed light about the seriousness of North Korea's nuclear weapon program.

"It was done as a provocative action to try to get both North Koreans, South Koreans, as well as the American government to realize this was a serious problem," Perry said, according to VOA.

The former defense secretary said the strike was eliminated as an option because it could result in a North Korean invasion of the South. A diplomatic solution was reached, and President Bill Clinton was never briefed on the strike plans, according to Perry.

Instead, Perry presented plans to impose sanctions against Pyongyang, evacuation strategies for U.S. citizens in South Korea, and a proposal to increase U.S. military presence by adding 20,000 troops, equal to half the existing forces at the time.

Tensions subsided in 1994 after former President Jimmy Carter agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang, but Kim died of a heart attack shortly thereafter.

The prospect of improved relations with Pyongyang was raised again in 1998, after North Korea fired a two-stage ballistic missile in Japan's direction, and Perry elected to begin a process of engagement with North Korea, which culminated in the visit of Jo Myong Rok, a high-ranking North Korean military official, to the White House.

Perry said events favored détente with Pyongyang, but Clinton's preoccupation with the Middle East peace process prevented a more full-time devotion to improving relations with North Korea. President George W. Bush's refusal to engage in similar bilateral dialogue with Pyongyang also marred the progress made under Clinton, Perry said.

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