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.”