2 million may die if North Korea nukes Seoul and Tokyo – report

As tensions rise on the Korean Peninsula, a new report has estimated that, should North Korea deploy its nuclear arsenal on Seoul and Tokyo, the death toll could be up to 2.1 million, with around 8 million injured.

Over the past few months, the stand-off, with Pyongyang on one side, and the US and its allies on the other, has been escalating, with belligerent rhetoric and provocative military posturing on both sides. Amid these tensions, a study by 38 North – a site on North Korean affairs run by Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies – has revealed the potential consequences of a nuclear strike launched by the North on its neighbors.

The report’s author, Michael J. Zagurek Jr., notes that “history is replete with ‘rational actors’ grossly miscalculating, especially in crisis situations,” and that another nuclear or missile test might trigger a hostile reaction from the United States, prompting a nuclear strike from the North Korean regime.

Estimating that Pyongyang has a nuclear arsenal of 25 warheads, Zagurek calculated what would happen if leader Kim Jong-un decides to launch all of them at Seoul and Tokyo, since both Japan and South Korea are key US allies. Accounting for missile defense systems such as the THAAD, deployed in South Korea, and the Aegis Ashore ABM, due to be installed in Japan, he said that “not all 25 North Korean nuclear missile warheads will detonate on their targets.”

Zagurek gave estimates of the casualty rates from 20 percent, 50 percent and 80 percent of the missiles hitting their targets. According to the highest estimates, 2.1 million people would be killed and another 7.7 million wounded. read more

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