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Nixon planned nuclear strike on North Korea

It is more than 35 years since he was shunted out of office, but the thought of Richard Nixon’s finger on the nuclear trigger still has the power to terrify.

world Updated: Jul 09, 2010 00:15 IST

It is more than 35 years since he was shunted out of office, but the thought of Richard Nixon’s finger on the nuclear trigger still has the power to terrify.

Now it has been revealed that the highly erratic president’s metaphorical digit was hovering even closer than was widely realised as his administration laid plans for an atomic strike against North Korea in 1969 following the shooting down of a US spy plane.

According to newly revealed government documents, Nixon is even believed to have ordered nuclear bombers to be put on standby for an immediate strike after North Korean jets downed the American plane as it flew over international waters collecting electronic and radio intelligence.

The documents, obtained by the National Security Archive in Washington after a freedom of information request, describe the plan codenamed Freedom Drop, which called for “pre-co-ordinated options for the selective use of tactical nuclear weapons against North Korea”.

Surprisingly, the contingency plans predicted that — depending on the scale of the nuclear strike — there could be as few as 100 casualties and no more than a few thousand.