As tensions between the United States and North Korea continue to simmer, Hawaii is preparing to resume a statewide test on Friday, November 24, of a Cold War-era early warning system designed to inform its residents of an impending nuclear attack.

Lieutenant General Patrick O’Reilly responds: 

“While monthly testing of sirens for storms and Tsunamis in Hawaii is prudent, initiating the monthly testing of specific sirens to warn of a imminent nuclear attack from North Korea at this time sends a message to Hawaiian tourists and citizens that a credible long-range North Korean nuclear Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) attack is as real as other natural disasters.  A 7,500 km ICBM flight from North Korea to Hawaii will require very precise accuracy even for the effective damage radius of a nuclear weapon miniaturized to the size compatible with a North Korean mobile missile of that range.  Recent North Korea flight testing has demonstrated ICBM class booster thrust, but it has never shown the long-range navigation accuracy, miniaturizing of a nuclear warhead, or the survivability of re-entry vehicle to indicate it has an imminent ICBM capability of striking Hawaii today or in the near-future.  Once North Korea has demonstrated that capability in a long-range horizontally relevant test, periodic civil-defense exercises in Hawaii may be reasonable. The most likely weapons effect of a moderately accurate nuclear warhead aimed at Hawaii (assuming all the other ICBM functions operate properly) is from Electro-Magnetic Pulse which would not be mitigated by the population of Hawaii seeking protection when alerted by civil defense sirens.  Developing long-term civil defense plans and annual testing of the specific sirens for nuclear attack may be reasonable, but monthly testing of these sirens for this purpose at this time introduces a level of anxiety for the Hawaiian population and could negatively impact their economically essential tourist industry which is the most likely real threat from North Korea at this time.”

Related Experts: Patrick O’Reilly