A friend of mine is traveling through Europe right now. She recently posted on Facebook that she checks the site every day to make sure Hawaii hasn’t been destroyed in a nuclear attack. Another friend, referencing a recent news article, said it’s time to upgrade our state’s bomb shelters.
I can’t look at social media these days without seeing some scary post about the “threat” of nuclear war with North Korea. And there are journalistic accounts too–from reputable news organizations–that seem every bit as frightening. “Specialists think North Korea poses nuclear threat to Hawaii,” screamed a terrifying April 10, 2017 Honolulu Star-Advertiser story. Four days later, Hawaii News Now followed up with a story headlined “Hawaii panel asks state to prepare for North Korea attack.”
None of this is new (in fact, I can recall that back in 2009 resort officials on Lanai ordered tourists off the beach because they feared a North Korean missile would hit there). More than ever, everyone in Hawaii needs to get a grip. News organizations especially need to stop looking on North Korea terror stories as click-bait and start making sure their headlines are as rational as the reporting in their stories.
North Korea is not going to lob nuclear missiles at Hawaii–at least, not anytime soon. Of that, military analysts agree. The North Korean government simply doesn’t have any missiles capable of hitting us.
“North Korea is still a few years away from being able to target U.S. territory,” wrote Sharon Squassoni, director of the Proliferation Prevention Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and member of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists‘ Science and Security Board in an April 14, 2017 op-ed for Teen Vogue (don’t laugh–they’re posting some of the best political writing out there right now). “It has been testing an intermediate-range missile, the Musudan, which could possibly reach Guam if the most optimistic estimates are right, but reaching Hawaii would require a missile to fly well over 4,000 miles. North Korea’s only missile with a tried-and-true, demonstrated range flies only 1,000 km (about 620 miles).”
Right now, nuclear war with North Korea threatens South Korea and Japan, but not Hawaii. Sure, this might change in a few years, but right now, it does not include Hawaii.
Once you read past the white knuckle headlines of local stories, it’s clear the “threat” from North Korea is being overblown. Pretty deep into that Star-Advertiser story mentioned above is the following quote from Hawaii Emergency Management Administrator Vern Miyagi: “If you were to ask me what is the status of North Korea, and is (a missile attack) a high probability, no, it’s a low probability.” As the article explains, Miyagi is a “retired Army two-star general who served at the Pacific Command as senior adviser for military support to civil authorities operations and Reserve and National Guard affairs,” so his credentials are pretty solid.
It helps to understand why North Korea, one of the most reclusive nations on earth, has been seeking nuclear weapons for the last few decades. The reason is actually pretty simple.
“Above all else, North Korea’s nuclear programme is about security–it is, by their estimation, the only reliable guarantee of the country’s basic sovereignty, of the Communist regime’s control, and of the rule of Kim Jong-un,” said Professor John Delury, of the Yonsei University Graduate School of International Studies, in this Sept. 9, 2016 BBC article. “North Korea learned from Iraq that Saddam Hussein’s mistake was he did not possess the weapons of mass destruction he was falsely accused of having. Libya taught a similar lesson. So, until we can help Pyongyang find a credible substitute to guarantee its security, and give Kim Jong-un the kind of prestige that comes with being a member of the nuclear club, then we can expect more tests, more progress and more ‘provocations’.”
Above all else, North Korea wants nuclear weapons to deter an American attack and invasion. Given our history of routinely bombing, invading and occupying poor nations–to say nothing of the bombastic blather of President Donald Trump–I’d say North Korea has a great deal more to fear from us than we have from them.
This is something every American, in or out of Hawaii, needs to understand: where North Korea is concerned, the United States is the biggest threat in the world. This predates the loon Trump by many decades, and will likely continue long after he’s finally out of power (assuming he doesn’t provoke China or even Russia into nuking us).
Photo: Famartin/Wikimedia Commons