Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have been rising with the added presence of American B-2 stealth bombers that have been spotted above South Korea as a sign of support for Seoul by the U.S.
On Friday, North Korea’s official newspaper Rodong published pictures of Kim Jong Un meeting with military officials in what they called an “emergency meeting” where he signed off on a plan that will ready military forces in anticipation of a nuclear strike. Analysis of the photo revealed that the map in the background of the picture was a “U.S. mainland strike plan.”
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An image published by NKNews indicated cities in Hawaii, Southern California and Texas, as well as the District of Columbia, were marked, making them potential targets.
Now, officials in various rumored target cities have spoken to Talking Points Memo, a New York-based online publication covering policy and politics, about the rising concern caused by the North Korean threats.
Although many analysts say a missile strike on the mainland U.S. would be highly improbable due to North Korea’s underdeveloped military technology, many still believe Hawaii could be vulnerable.
However, the office of Hawaii's Gov. Neil Abercrombie told TPM that he was “confident” his state would be prepared to handle a threat from North Korea: “Gov. Neil Abercrombie is in close communication with political and military authority both here and in Washington D.C. ... The governor is confident that all challenges are being addressed.”
Austin, Texas, Mayor Lee Leffingwell also commented on speculation that North Korea was targeting his city. “The city has been in contact with federal officials through the Austin Regional Intelligence Center (ARIC) regarding the North Korean threat to Austin,” Leffingwell said in a statement quoted by TPM. He added that although the threats are being taken seriously, authorities “do not believe the threats are credible at this time.”
Because of the low resolution of the map, it is hard to pinpoint which specific cities were marked. While previous reports suggested Austin was a target, it has also been put forward that San Antonio is more likely the intended target of a strike because of the U.S. Army presence there.
A representative of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa noted the U.S. Defense Department would be best suited to handle any response to North Korean threats. And TPM did indeed reached out to the Defense Department, which responded by echoing the same confidence expressed by Hawaii's governor. “The U.S. is fully capable in defending itself and our allies against a DPRK attack. We are firmly committed to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan,” a Defense Department duty officer said.
TPM also reported that a representative of Washington's city government declined to comment, while a rep of San Diego's city government had not responded by the time its article was published.