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Hawaii Updating Nuclear Contingency Plan Over North Korea Fears, Documents Show

The Hawaii Department of Defense is in the process of updating its nuclear contingency plan amid escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea.

Documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by Motherboard’s Sarah Emerson detail the steps being taken by the Hawaiian government to prepare for the unlikely event of a nuclear attack.

One such document, dated May 1st of this year, provides an overview of the “Plan of Action and Milestones (PoAM)” for a ballistic missile defense initiative.

Another recent document, concerning legislation seeking funds for contingency upgrades, labels Hawaii a “strategic and symbolic target” given the United States Pacific Command’s (USPACOM) presence in Pearl Harbor — the site of the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service’s surprise attack on U.S. Naval forces in 1941.

“While the US military may have contingency plans for such an event from a military perspective, civilian agencies must also be prepared,” the document reads. “These civilian plans have not been updated since 1985 and the capabilities of shelters have declined steadily into non-existence since the end of the Cold War.”

Though conflicting reports paint different pictures of North Korea’s intentions and capabilities, the document argues that “hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst is the burden of our government.”

“If some experts are correct that North Korea does now have or soon will have the capability to reach the Hawaiian Island with an intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear (chemical or biological) warhead, it stands to reason that the government of North Korea would pose an imminent threat to the people of Hawaii.”

A third document, produced by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, breaks down numerous aspects of the “Ballistic Missile Hazard.”

The assessment states that Hawaiian officials are continuing to monitor North Korea’s actions in coordination with USPACOM while updating emergency plans and re-assessing old fallout shelters.

“Major Considerations” at the end of the document note that “Missile arrival time is less than 20 minutes,” with likely targets including Barbers Point, Pearl Harbor and the Honolulu Harbor area.

Even as North Korea continues to disregard international condemnation over its missile and nuclear weapons programs, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency stresses that citizens and visitors should not be alarmed.

“At this point we know of no imminent threat of a nuclear ballistic missile attack and there are doubts regarding North Korea’s capability to conduct such an attack against Hawaii.”

North Korea carried out its latest ballistic missile test in defiance of the United States and its regional allies Sunday by successfully launching a medium-range missile.

The test came just one week after the regime launched a separate medium-range missile that experts said flew higher and longer than any other projectile previously — placing targets such as Hawaii and Alaska in the crosshairs for the first time.

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About Mikael Thalen

Mikael Thalen is an investigative journalist covering foreign policy, information security and digital surveillance. His reports have been cited by sites such as the New York Times, Computerworld, International Business Times and the Drudge Report. How to contact Mikael securely:

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