It’s been hard to ignore the ominous game of nuclear chicken currently ongoing between the totalitarian government of North Korea, which successfully tested an upgraded intercontinental ballistic missile on Wednesday morning local time, and the US, which is currently led by a belligerent lightweight with an extremely limited understanding of nuclear strategy. That goes double for the US state of Hawaii, one of the easier potential targets in a doomsday scenario, and which has begun renewed tests of its nuclear early-warning system.
Per the New York Times, Hawaii will resume tests of its Attack Warning Tone siren, a “wailing tone” that will play for “about 50 seconds on the first business day of every month, beginning on Dec. 1”. A similar system is already tested on the same dates for hurricanes or tsunamis, the paper noted, but the nuclear alert system has been offline since the mid-1990s, after the end of the Cold War.
In the video below, Vern Miyagi of Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency instructs residents that upon hearing the tone, they should “take immediate shelter. Get inside, stay inside, stay tuned.”
Though state officials insist that an actual attack on Hawaii is very unlikely, they have quietly begun preparations to determine the possible impact of an attack on the area, The Washington Post reported in September. Spoilers: It isn’t great, with a high likelihood double-digit portions of the population would be killed immediately and advice for survivors largely limited to advice on stockpiling supplies and avoiding radioactive fallout. According to planning documents, “There are currently no designated shelters in the State of Hawaii at this time.”
Lest anyone enter a full-blown panic, it’s important to remember that similar drills were common throughout the US during the Cold War, which notably did not end in a nuclear Armageddon. Still, it’s yet another disquieting sign of the progress of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.
The missile North Korea tested on Wednesday achieved an unprecedented altitude of 4500km and flew a distance of roughly 965km. North Korea bragged the new missile was capable of striking the mainland continental US – a troubling assessment backed by the Union of Concerned Scientists, which did note it remains likely the missile was not capable of carrying an actual warhead that far. While North Korea is likely exaggerating the capabilities of its missile systems for bargaining power, they have nonetheless caught up at a troubling pace.