California Wonders if North Korea Will Strike — and When

U.S. public health and first responders in California and throughout the West Coast have begun preparing for the impact of a potential nuclear war after North Korea fired a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) over Japan last week in the anniversary of America’s triumphant Inchon Landing in the Korean War.

In 1950, with U.S. forces barely hanging on to Pusan Peninsula as 100,000 North Korean troops had overrun 90 percent of South Kore, General Douglas MacArthur between audaciously used 261 vessels to land 75,000 American troops far behind enemy lines between September 15 and 23 to cut off the North Korean army.

Now, the West Coast is being forced to confront the risk of a nuclear attack after North Korea claimed to have detonated a hydrogen bomb. It has successfully launching 3 intercontinental ballistic missile that could fly half-way to the U.S. mainland.

North Korea has test launched 84 missiles since ’s Kim Jong Un assumed power from his aging father 6 years ago. The first 81 were highly unreliable medium range “Musudan” missiles, with about 1,500-mile range. But the three most recent tests demonstrate the potential of North Korea’s new two-stage Hwasong-14 ICBM, powered by highly reliable liquid-propellant RD-250 rocket engines, believed to have been manufactured in the Ukraine.

The International Institute for Strategic Studied projects that the Hwasong-14 missiles can reach a 25-mile altitude and travel down range over 3,000 miles. They add, “No other country has transitioned from a medium-range capability to an ICBM in such a short time.”

An improved distance version of the ICBM, coupled with a hydrogen bomb that is 10 times more powerful than prior atomic weapons tested by the regime, could allow North Korea to inflict an air-burst nuclear attack over Los Angeles that would instantly impact about 860,887 people, causing 166,990 deaths and 249,620 injuries in the first 24 hours, according to the “Nuke Map” produced by historian Alex Wellerstein.

Security expert Lt. Col. Hal Kempfer (Ret.) told a Los Angeles meeting of officials representing California public health and first responders last week that Long Beach is a prime target for an attack from North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, who has threatened to reduce the U.S. homeland to “ashes and darkness.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Nuclear Incident Medical Enterprise (NIME) has already combined the efforts from government and nongovernment experts to provide a nuclear incident response to “physical infrastructure damage, the spectrum of injuries, a scarce resources setting,” to enable “decision making in the face of a rapidly evolving situation with limited information.” But NIME is primarily designed to respond to a 10-kiloton atomic blast from a nuclear device snuck into the U.S. homeland by terrorists, not a 150-kiloton monster flying from North Korea at high speeds.

Kempfer told meeting participants that at this point, it is more likely that a North Korean attack on the West Coast would involve firing an ICBM with a smaller 10-kilaton nuclear weapon at a major West Coast city or detonating an atomic bomb smuggled into one of the West Coast’s 27 commercial harbors.

He added that other grave secondary risks from a nuclear blast would include the blinding flash, radioactive fallout, and damage from an electromagnetic pulse that would wipe-out most utilities, cars, telephones and computers.


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