Should North Korea nuclear strikes worry California at all?


North Korean state media is warning the U.S. of a “super-mighty preemptive strike” that could “wipe out” the U.S. mainland. These sorts of threats from a country with limited capability are something we’ve heard before, of course, but tensions do seem high now. So should Californians be concerned?

This post was written in April. For more recent coverage:

Trump threatens ‘fire and fury,’ North Korea ‘considering’ strike on Guam


North Korea: What Trump, Mattis and Tillerson are saying amid nuclear threat

If you read a report in the San Francisco Chronicle about a celebration of the 105th birthday of North Korea’s founder this past weekend featuring a uniformed brass band accompanying a video of missiles striking San Francisco, you might say … maybe.

But the consensus among experts is that the reclusive nation isn’t likely to have the weapons capability it is constantly threatening to use against the U.S. and South Korea to “reduce them to ashes” … at least yet.

Let’s take a look at what a handful of experts are saying about North Korea’s nuclear capabilities these days.

‘A lot of bluster’

William Perry served as U.S. defense secretary from 1994 to 1997 and worked on negotiations with North Korea. He told Reuters he doesn’t believe the country could pull off a surprise attack on the U.S.

“They are doing a lot of bluster and a lot of threats, and they might misplay that hand and blunder into a war.”

‘A year or two’

Joshua Pollock, a senior researcher at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California is quick to remind The Guardian that North Korea hasn’t tested any intercontinental ballistic missiles yet, so the starting line is a ways away.

“If they do get to the point where they decide to start a campaign of ICBM flight testing, that will allow them to work through the usual technical difficulties,” he said. “It will allow them in time, I’m confident, to create a reliable weapon.”

‘Likely by 2020’

The Guardian also interviewed Joseph Bermudez, an analyst for 38 North, a think tank affiliated with the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

“If everything proceeds as is, it’s likely by 2020 that they could have a system reaching the United States,” he told The Guardian. “It should be viewed as an emerging threat.”

Maybe in five years

Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia nonproliferation program at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, told Vox that he thinks a long-range missile capable of hitting the U.S. could be ready within five years.

U.S. mainland? No

Kelsey Davenport, the director of nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association admitted to Business Insider that it’s clear North Korea has made significant advances when it comes to nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles.

But she said if anything, a nuclear warhead on a medium-rang missile would “put South Korea, Japan and US military installations in range of the North Korean nuclear threat.”

If the experts can’t agree, what’s an average person to do? Let’s take a look.

Californians seem to have a mix of feelings about the recent talk of attack on the West Coast.

Do you feel better after hearing from experts? Or is the nuclear threat from North Korea on your mind lately?

Let us know in the comment section below.


Twitter: @abbyhamblin