Published on Sunday, August 13, 2000 by Reuters
Lost U.S. Nuclear Bomb to Affect Talks on Greenland
by Peter Starck
COPENHAGEN - A long lost U.S. nuclear bomb probably lies on the seabed off Greenland near Thule airbase, which the United States wants to use for its controversial anti-missile shield, a Danish newspaper reported on Sunday.

Classified documents obtained by a group of former workers at Thule, an Arctic air and radar base built by the United States in 1951-52, suggest that one of four hydrogen bombs on a B-52 bomber that crashed there in 1968 was never found, the daily Jyllands-Posten said.

``Detective work by a group of former Thule workers indicates that an unexploded nuclear bomb probably still lies on the seabed off Thule,'' the right-leaning mass-circulation daily said.

The crash on January 21, 1968 led to a crisis in relations between the United States and NATO ally Denmark, which is responsible for Greenland's foreign, security and defense policy and at the time prohibited nuclear weapons on its territory, including Greenland.

Denmark was never informed about the lost bomb, which has serial number 78252, the paper said.

Footage filmed at the site by a U.S. submarine searching for remains of the B-52 wreckage in April 1968 contained images of a bomb-like object, the Danish Ritzau news agency reported.

A U.S. state department document dated August 31, 1968 said all weapons onboard the crashed aircraft had been accounted for but did not spell out whether they had been recovered, Ritzau said.

The United States assured the Danish government in spring 1968 that clean-up work after the B-52 crash had been completed and gave up searching for the lost bomb in August that year, Jyllands-Posten said.

``We are not able to comment at this stage,'' Lawrence Butler, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. embassy in Copenhagen, told Reuters by telephone. Danish government officials were not immediately available for comment.

Senior State Department officials are scheduled to visit Greenland on August 21 to 24 for talks with Danish and Greenland officials on Thule's role in the planned National Missile Defense (NMD) initiative.

According to Senate testimony by Defense Secretary William Cohen in July, Washington needs a decision on upgrading the Thule radar next year if the White House makes the political go-ahead to deploy NMD by 2005.

Home to a ballistic missile early-warning radar station, Thule sits at the midpoint of a chain of similar sites between Alaska and the British Isles -- a line along which the United States may build a shield against missiles from what it calls states of concern such as North Korea, Iraq, Iran and Libya.

Leading politicians in Greenland, which has enjoyed limited self-determination under the Danish crown since 1979, do not want Thule to play any role in the NMD.

Denmark has declined to speak out on the issue apart from saying that the NMD should not go ahead if it breaches the strategic missile treaty between the United States and Russia. Moscow opposes the U.S. missile shield plan, and says it does breach the treaty.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned Denmark and other U.S. NATO allies that their participation in the NMD could upset global strategic stability.

Copyright 2000 Reuters Limited