Article: Nuclear Threats Then And Now

A decision to trim a tree in the Korean demilitarized zone in 1976 escalated into a threat to use nuclear weapons. After a fatal skirmish between U.S. and North Korean border guards, U.S. forces in the region were placed on heightened alert (DEFCON 3) and nuclear forces were deployed to signal preparations for an attack on North Korea. The North Koreans did not interfere with the tree trimming again, so the threat must have worked, the Pentagon concluded.

Thirty years later, North Korea has probably developed nuclear weapons and is trying to develop long-range ballistic missiles to threaten you-know-who, and the United States has ventured into a multi-billion dollar effort to build a missile defense system and a “New Triad” to better dissuade, deter, and defeat North Korea and other “rogue” states.

So, did the threat work?

The “tree-trimming incident,” as the U.S.-North Korean scuffle has come to be known, and other examples of using nuclear threats are described in the article “Nuclear Threats Then And Now” in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

View Article | Korea Background | Global Strike Mission

One thought on “Article: Nuclear Threats Then And Now

  1. I’ll have to check my references, but I believe that the real reason why NK troops didn’t interfere with the subsequent tree trimming by the US and ROK troops was because the US military was prepared to go into the DMZ in full force and dared the NK to do something. The nuclear threat was helpful, but the conventional threat was much more visible and on a hair trigger.

    Here’s a recap of that incident – amazing how long Washington worried about plans/options before they allowed something to happen.

    FAS: The original recap is available here (PDF).

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