2 U.S. Presidents Considered Attacking North Korea with Nuclear Weapons

    Dave Majumdar

    Security, Asia

    Any idea who? 

    While tensions with North Korea are especially high following Pyongyang’s repeated ballistic missile and nuclear tests, Donald Trump is not the first U.S. president to consider launching a nuclear strike against the so-called Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Both Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon considered launching nuclear strikes against the Kim regime during earlier provocations during the Cold War.

    President Johnson considered a nuclear strike—among several other options—in retaliation for North Korea’s seizure of USS Pueblo on January 23, 1968. The North Koreans seized the surveillance vessel—killing one sailor and capturing 83 others. The servicemen were held hostage for the better part of a year.

    “Recently declassified documents posted today by the National Security Archive describe tense U.S. internal reactions to the Pueblo seizure, and include previously withheld high-level political and military deliberations over how to respond to the episode in an atmosphere fraught with the dangers of a superpower conflict,” John Prados and Jack Cheevers at the George Washington University National Security Archives wrote in 2014. “Military contingency plans, which President Lyndon Johnson eventually rejected, included a naval blockade, major air strikes and even use of nuclear weapons against North Korea.”

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    Indeed, documents gathered by the archives show that while the U.S. State Department was negotiating, the Pentagon was preparing for a preemptive strike—potentially with nuclear weapons.

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    The National Interest



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