Since 1953, an uneasy truce punctuated by missile launches and sometimes violent incidents has persisted between the countries of North Korea and South Korea. The United States has been concerned with protecting the democratic South from the dictatorship of the North throughout the years, deploying thousands of troops to the border. However, since 2006, when North Korea acquired nuclear weapons, the threat has been perceived to reach home. Much scaremongering has occurred about the North’s ability to attack the continental United States, but the facts of the matter still are not comforting.
North Korea has no weaponry that can hit Florida, and its submarines do not have the range to do so either. Despite this, North Korea can still attack Americans. The most immediate danger is to the 23,468 American military personnel deployed in South Korea and 150,778 immigrants and expats in that country as well, according to the U.S. Military and the South Korean government. If war were to break out, they would be in extreme danger, and if nuclear weapons were used, many would die. North Korea’s capabilities in artillery, short range missiles and submarine-launched weapons could devastate such cities as Seoul and annihilate the demilitarized zone that thousands of American soldiers guard.
Going beyond South Korea, fewer Americans are in danger. North Korea could attack Japan with nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles easily as well, putting an additional 39,345 military personnel and 51,321 citizens in danger. Further out, North Korea’s ballistic missiles start to be less effective and more prone to failure. The Musudan-4, with a range of 4,000 km, according to Business Insider, is the missile with the furthest capability that can hold nuclear weapons, and the only American territories it can damage directly are Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. North Korea has intercontinental ballistic missiles that can hit the western continental United States such as the KN-08 and Taepo Dong-2, with a range of 9,000 and 10,000 km respectively, but they cannot be equipped with nuclear weapons at this time and their possibility of failure in flight is high.
Overall, Americans should be vigilant about the threat North Korea faces, but not be baited into accepting a first strike. North Korea is very unlikely to start a war. As irrational and kinslaying dictator Kim Jong Un may be, he knows there is no way he would survive such a war. Within days, nuclear escalation would become inevitable, as the longer the war continues the more intense American effort to remove North Korea’s nuclear capability will become, and without nuclear weapons there is very little North Korea can do to prolong its existence during war. Unfortunately, with two irrational leaders at the heads of these opposing countries, it’s hard to predict what will happen.