Expert tries to calm fears, raises concerns about North Korean nuclear crisis

Threat of a nuclear attack on the United States by North Korea may sound scarier than anything Halloween could bring, but Washington State University professor Thomas Preston believes the threat to the U.S. is not as scary as some might think.

Tom PrestonPreston, a C.O. Johnson Distinguished Professor of political science at WSU, shared his thoughts on the North Korean nuclear crisis in a continuation of the Foley Institute’s Coffee and Politics Series on Tuesday afternoon on the WSU campus.

When his book “From Lambs to Lions: Future Security Relationships in a World of Biological and Nuclear Weapons” was published in 2007, Preston said North Korea was then early on in its proliferation of nuclear weapons. Since then, Preston said, the country has developed more redundant capabilities.

The real threat, currently, is to North Korea’s neighbors. Half of South Korea’s population is located within 25 miles of the Korean Demilitarized Zone – that’s closer than Lewiston is to Pullman, Preston said. And besides its nuclear capabilities, North Korea has a large chemical weapons arsenal and a biological weapons program to boot.

Preston said people should keep those facts in mind when pondering why the U.S. does not just attack North Korea. More than 16 million people could be at risk of North Korea’s capabilities, Preston said, and a new Korean war could cause an estimated 1 million casualties.

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