North Korea Offers to Return USS Pueblo

The North Korean government has offered to return the U.S.S. Pueblo, captured in 1968, in exchange for a visit from a high level American official.

North Korea Hints at Returning USS Pueblo (AP)

Negotiations to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear weapons remain in limbo, but the North Koreans are giving hints they might be ready to end another lingering problem with the United States by returning the captured spy ship USS Pueblo.
They are setting an unlikely condition, though, considering hostile U.S.-North Korean relations: a visit by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice or another top-level American official.

“It would be a gesture, but somebody needs to make a gesture,” said Donald Gregg, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea who brought home the offer after a mid-August trip to North Korea. He told the State Department about his discussions. A department official said there are no plans for a high-level visit to North Korea.

The Pueblo ranks low in the hierarchy of irritants causing bad blood between the two countries. Paramount is the North’s admitted nuclear weapons and missile programs. The United States has also criticized North Korea’s human rights record, its maintenance of a million-strong army while its people live off donated food, and what it sees as North Korea’s support for terrorism.

Still, to those involved with the Pueblo — and to the U.S. Navy — the ship’s plight is far more than a footnote to the history of the Cold War. Sent defenseless on an intelligence-gathering mission off the North Korean coast, and given no help after North Korean torpedo boats mounted an attack, the Pueblo was captured Jan. 23, 1968. It was the first U.S. warship captured since 1807.

The DPRK has waited a little long in excercising this bargaining chip, methinks. Still, it would be nice to have it back.

via Bill the Florida Masochist

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. RA says:

    We should tell them to stick the Pueblo where the sun don’t shine.

  2. Jim Henley says:

    And Christopher Hitchens says: “Eleven!”

  3. Richard Gardner says:

    If the USA does decide to send someone “top-level,” I’d one suggest one of the following:

    1. Secretary of Agriculture. (Given all the food aid we’ve given them, and their everlasting famine)
    2. Secretary of Energy. (Another major need of NK, plus controls the US nuclear labs)
    3. Dick Cheney. (why not? And he could be more stoic than the NK)

    Each of these sends its own message, and also doesn’t leave the impression of diplomatic solutions that sending the Secretary of State would. (And forget sending SecDef). Absent the 3 above, most anyone above Deputy Assistant Undersecretary is more top-level than all of NK.

  4. Jim Henley says:

    We certainly don’t want diplomatic solutions to our foreign policy problems. Still, I’m all for sending Dick Cheney just about anywhere.

    He wouldn’t be coming back, would he?

  5. Sgt Fluffy says:

    I say we take it out of their cold, dead hands.. As for the high level American official. Send Alec Baldwin over to represent the Film Actors Guild

  6. the freshmaker says:

    Why would they want to return it now? So that they don’t have to make a real concession, like human rights.

  7. LJD says:

    It’s a Trojan Horse.
    I hope they check it for nukes.

  8. DL says:

    It does show that their weakness is the need to have our approval. Great minds should be able to figure out a way to use this. (Old Korean Vet)

    Question of the century -Was MacArthur right?

  9. N. Powerer says:

    Let’s just sink her (she IS still our property) and tell them “No thanks”.

    It would perfectly legal since the Korean war has still not officialy ended.

    Or, we could threaten to send Cheney there permanently UNLESS they give her back!

  10. E J Steel says:

    I say we put Cheney ON the Pueblo and THEN sink her. Beats telling him to go F___ himself.

  11. W.A. Reed says:

    Send Clinton.