Hawaii is preparing for a North Korea nuclear attack—just in case

Eyes upward.
Eyes upward.
Image: Ethan Robertson/Unsplash
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Hawaii isn’t panicking about a North Korean nuclear attack, and it considers the likelihood of one to be low. But it’s worried enough to start preparing for one, just in case.

On July 4, North Korea test-launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile, which landed in the Sea of Japan. Experts determined that the ICBM, on a different trajectory, could have hit Alaska. US intelligence recently suggested the rogue nation is preparing for another missile test, possibly involving a second ICBM, that will take place in a few weeks. Hawaii could soon find itself well within range of Kim Jong-un’s nukes.

With that in mind, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency is kicking off an educational campaign aimed at helping residents and visitors know what to do in the event of an attack. Later this year, the state will begin testing a new emergency siren that would be used in such a case, giving residents time to get inside and listen for public service announcements. An ICBM launched from North Korea would take about 20 minutes to reach Hawaii, thanks to the Pacific Ocean, so there would be brief window of time to detect a launch and react accordingly.

Of course, Hawaii also has to worry about news of its preparations hurting tourism, but just as with a natural disaster, the government has a responsibility to prepare citizens for the worst.

Japan, too, has been planning for a North Korea missile attack. In April lawmakers called for a nationwide system of drills, and legislative tweaks to make it easier to order mandatory evacuations. Japanese citizens are being advised to seek shelter underground or in strong concrete buildings in the event of an attack, though authorities admit that, given North Korea’s proximity, they might not get enough time to react.

Hawaii can take some comfort in being much further away, and from the shortcomings that likely still exist in North Korean missiles, including accuracy and the ability of a nuclear warhead—assuming it’s been successfully attached in the first place—to survive reentry in working order.

If future North Korean missile tests show an even greater range, other US states might be in for preparations of their own.