The White House and Other U.S. Targets on North Korea’s Nuclear Hit List

Kim Jong-Un
Things are more tense than ever. | STR/AFP/Getty Images

North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong Un, are no stranger to the spotlight. Whether it’s hanging out with Dennis Rodman or threatening nuclear war, we Americans are used to seeing North Korea in the headlines. But we seem to have entered a new phase or era when it comes to the North Korean threat — specifically when it comes to the nation’s nuclear abilities. Kim Jong Un, for example, claims to have a hydrogen bomb.

What if Kim Jong-un does decide to actually launch a strike? What if Trump’s strategy backfires, and we suddenly find ourselves staring at a nuclear war? It would obviously be devastating, and millions would likely die. But before the United States retaliated, what would the North Koreans consider their primary targets? A new report from the European Council on Foreign Relations outlines a handful of top-level American targets which would be the at the top of the list.

Here, from the report, are the American targets on that list.

1. The Pentagon

  • The Pentagon is the nerve-center of American military operations, and 23,000 people work there.

A nuclear strike on the Pentagon would obviously take out much of Washington D.C., but crippling the Pentagon itself would have wide-ranging effects. As the headquarters of the Department of Defense, the Pentagon is where all the military magic happens. If a North Korean missile were to somehow make it there, we’d be in a lot of trouble. This is why it’s such a high-value target — taking out the military’s headquarters would devastate the command structure.

Next: Another D.C. target.

2. The White House

white house
The symbol of our government would be lost. | Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images
  • The White House is home to the executive branch — and a strike would effectively decapitate the government.

Again, if the White House were to be the primary target of a nuclear strike, you can likely count on the rest of D.C. going down with it. That includes the Pentagon. But leaving the Pentagon out of it for a minute, a strike on the White House would destroy the executive branch of the government (the president, etc.), leaving the country leaderless and rudderless for some time. It’s easy to see why it would be a primary target for a hostile government.

Next: Recalibrate those missiles to hit a bit further up the East Coast.

3. Manhattan, New York City

Attacking the island would kill millions. | iStock/Getty Images
  • More than 1.5 million people live in Manhattan.

Another very specific item on the ECFR’s list is Manhattan, the central borough in New York City. A nuclear attack on New York would kill untold millions, and perhaps most importantly (from an antagonist’s perspective), cripple the country’s business sector. Manhattan is the world’s primary financial beacon, for example, and wiping it out would send the entire world economy into a tailspin. We’ve seen it once before, too, after 9/11.

Next: We broaden the scope and target the American mainland.

4. ‘Major cities’ and the American ‘mainland’

Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco
An attack on any city would be devastating. | iStock/Getty Images
  • Two very broad items on the list: The American mainland and major U.S. cities.

Cities on the list would include San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C., and, as we’ve discussed, New York. But other targets would also be in the mix. A strike on Seattle, for example, would go a long way toward crippling the country’s economy (it’s home to Amazon, Microsoft, and numerous Boeing plants), as would a hit on a major port like New Orleans or Miami. The worst part? America is a big place with a lot of potential targets.

Next: A target that North Korea has already threatened with nuclear annihilation.

5. Guam and Hawaii

North Korea targets Guam
Guam is within easy range. | Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images
  • Due to recent threats, Guam already has a plan in place in the event of a nuclear attack.

If you’ve been paying attention to the North Korean saga, you know that Kim Jong Un and company have already made threats against American territories in the far Pacific. On the top of their list was Guam, which is home to 160,000 American citizens. It’s an easy and relatively close target for North Korea, which makes puts it at the top of their list. Hawaii, too, is up there — and it’s a state with a much higher population.

Next: We stay in the Pacific theater.

6. Pacific military bases

US Military base Philippines
The Philippines is home to another base. | Jay Directo/AFP/GettyImages
  • The U.S. has military bases all around the world — including several in the Pacific.

Another obvious target for North Korea? Nearby American military bases — and there are several. The U.S. has a military presence all over the Pacific, including in two strategic places already mentioned: Guam and Hawaii. But there are several others, all of which make good targets for North Korea. The U.S. maintains a presence in places like Thailand and the Phillippines, and a few other places near the Korean peninsula (which we’ll get to in a minute).

Next: Could North Korea hit a moving target?

7. American aircraft carriers

Aircraft Carrier
The destruction would be crippling. | Lt. Steve Smith/U.S. Navy via Getty Images

One of the American military’s deadliest and most strategically important assets, aircraft carriers are floating, mobile air bases. For that reason, they project an awful lot of power and can be a frightening and menacing spectacle to a country like North Korea. That makes American aircraft carriers a top target for a strike.

Finally: Targets that are as close to North Korea as you can get.

8. Military bases in South Korea and Japan

US military base South Korea
The military has a base in South Korea as well. | Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images
  • The U.S., in addition to its Pacific bases, has a permanent presence in both South Korea and Japan.

If you’re North Korea, it’d make sense that you’d want to hit the nearest and most present threat. That would be the military bases in South Korea and Japan. Of course, a nuclear strike so close by puts your own country at risk, but if North Korea did choose to launch a nuclear weapon, they’d be sealing their fate regardless.

See the complete report from the European Council on Foreign Relations.

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