July 26, 2017 13:06
The U.S. state of Hawaii has decided to resume evacuation drills every month starting in November in case of a North Korean missile attack. The drills are based on the assumption that a 15-kiloton nuclear weapon detonates 300 m above Honolulu. They could put a dampener on the state's crucial tourism revenues, but authorities said they are necessary all the same.
Although state authorities said an attack is "a low probability," they added, "We have to keep a lookout for that. That's why we're talking about updating the plan. It's an awakening." The U.S. is taking the threat of a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile extremely seriously.
But South Korea remains blasé. There was a news report that Seoul opposed labeling the North Korean missile an ICBM in a joint letter penned by the leaders of South Korea, the U.S. and Japan condemning the launch.
The point is debatable -- the missile has at most a range of 7,000 km -- and there is no need to exaggerate the threat, but the North is rapidly developing its missile technology, whether South Korea acknowledges it or not. It is only a matter of time before it does develop a bona fide ICBM that can carry a nuclear warhead.
The government's easy-going attitude is the result of a chronic insensitivity the South Korean public has developed vis-a-vis the North Korean military threat. To be sure, North Korea is mainly building up a massive nuclear arsenal to face off with the U.S. over control of the Korean Peninsula, but if it actually resorts to using these weapons, South Korea will become the first target.
South Korean authorities have never even considered nuclear evacuation drills, on the mistaken assumption that North Korea has yet to mention a nuclear detonation over South Korean airspace as a possibility. And many South Koreans have their head in the sand to such an extent that the government would be sure to face vocal opposition if it did stage any evacuation drills.
Another problem is that Kim Jong-un's nuclear brinkmanship could actually pay off because Americans are taking the threat so seriously. If the U.S. cannot find an effective military solution, it may opt to negotiate with Kim. Seoul needs to be wary of the possibility that its future will be determined over its head by the U.S. and North Korea.
Still, it is bizarre for a neighboring country to be so complacent when Hawaii 7,000 km away is taking the threat so seriously. Since the new government was inaugurated, it seems that the hazards of South Korea's own nuclear power plants has been given more priority than the threat of North Korean nuclear bombs. South Koreans urgently need to wake up.
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