As tensions continue to mount between the U.S. and the rogue nation of North Korea, experts have debated the full extent of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. One question of utmost importance is whether or not the regime could launch a nuclear strike capable of reaching the continental United States.
Should such an attack occur, one location above all others would seem to be the likeliest target of North Korea’s aggression. Richard Ellings, the President of the National Bureau of Asian Research, argues that Seattle, Washington, stands as the “ultimate target.”
One reason for this is Seattle’s location. Its position at the northwest corner of the continental United States makes it much easier to reach than a city situated further inland. And although many experts agree that Seattle currently remains outside North Korea’s range, some have warned that by the end of Donald Trump’s first term in office, North Korea will have upgraded their missile program to the point where delivering a nuclear warhead to the west coast would be an entirely concrete possibility.
Among those sounding the alarm is General Michael Hayden, the former head of the NSA and CIA. As he described the threat, “one of the things coming at us…are the North Koreans.”
“I’ve famously written, to be provocative, that by the end of this term for Mr. Trump, North Korea will be able to reach this city, as in Seattle, with an indigenously-produced (intercontinental ballistic missile).”
But in addition to its locale, Seattle also appears an attractive target for the regime for other reasons as well. As Ellings suggests, the city represents a mark of symbolic significance for North Korea.
“We, the shining city on the hill, with all these amazing companies,” he explained in an interview with KUOW’s Bill Radke. “We have Boeing, one of the most critical defense contractors. We have Joint Base Lewis-McChord, whose main purpose down there, I-Corps, is to reinforce…the Korean Peninsula in the case of invasion. We are the ultimate strategic and symbolic target.”
— Cameron Lewis (@yoURDATAisyours) April 15, 2017
Add to the mix a large population, along with the cultural and economic significance of the city, and it becomes quite apparent the degree of devastation a nuclear bomb dropped on Seattle would bring. This is precisely why these experts consider it the prime target of North Korea.
Can The U.S. Stop A North Korean Strike?
The U.S. has no easy options when it comes to preventing North Korea from launching such a cataclysmic attack. It may attempt a pre-emptive strike of its own, but there’s reason to believe such a move may backfire dramatically, especially as it concerns the well-being of two U.S. allies, South Korea, and Japan. Both of these countries lie within the range of North Korea’s missiles, and could possibly suffer colossal damage as a result of American military action.
Heavy sanctions have proven ineffective in reigning the country in, and China has offered little indication that it plans to suspend the economic support that sustains the rogue regime.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 16, 2017
Should the U.S. do nothing, and North Korea widen the range of its missiles to threaten Seattle and other west coast cities, an anti-missile defense system that the Pentagon developed would nonetheless remain a last resort for these American locales. The Ground-based Midcourse Defense system (GMD), as it’s called, has the potential to intercept incoming warheads and knock them out of the sky. The test trials, however, have yielded underwhelming results.
In the event that North Korea deploys a handful of nuclear warheads intended for Seattle, there’s no guarantee this system could intercept all of them in time. This emphasizes the difficult position America finds itself in regarding North Korea. There are no great options on the table for preventing an attack or stopping one in mid-progress. We can only hope that the situation meets with a happy resolution, and we will have to stand alert and monitor how it plays out in the days and weeks to come.
[Featured Image by Wong Maye-E/AP Images]