Austin
3:48 pm
Fri March 29, 2013

Time to Start Hoarding the Breakfast Tacos: North Korea Wants to Strike Austin?

Update: UT Politics and East Asia expert Patricia Maclachlan says nuclear weapons are North Korea’s only way to get the U.S. to the negotiating table.

“It has nothing else going for it. It’s the only negotiating card that it really has to get what it wants from the outside world," she says.

But the threat does beg the question: Why Austin?

Jeremi Suri with the LBJ School of Public Policy at UT says Austin – and Texas – have increasing recognition on the international stage. “We’ve had a number of presidents recently from Texas, we’ve had a lot of job growth," Suri says. "A lot of people coming to University of Texas from around the world, coming to open businesses in Texas, major corporations like Dell.” 

You also can’t forget the city’s musical reputation, with festivals like South by Southwest and Austin City Limits. Suri says the threat is nothing but an example of Austin’s rise to international acclaim.

“This just shows how even crazy people in North Korea recognize how important and exciting Austin is," he said.

Update (12:53 p.m.): Some experts say Austinites and the rest of the country shouldn’t get too worried by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s threat to launch an attack against some major U.S. cities, including Austin.

UT Politics and East Asia expert Patricia Maclachlan says since the Korean War, North Korea has never followed through on a threat towards the U.S. “It’s always threatened along the margins, smaller skirmishes [which is], of course, unsettling for South Korea,” Maclachlan says.

“But the history of this should give us pause before we jump to the conclusion that this is a new phase in North Korea’s politics,” she adds.

Maclachlan says North Korea is probably a few years out from developing missiles that could reach the center of the United States. Still, she says the threats shouldn’t be entirely ignored.

“Steadily over the last few years it has made notable improvements and there is no reason for us to assume that it will stop improving the technology,” she says.

North Korea’s statements are more likely a response to recent shifts in Asian politics, like the transition in China, South Korea’s new leader and President Obama’s decision to beef up a military presence in the region.

That's not stopping folks from making hay of the North Korean threat on Twitter. The hashtag #whyaustin is blowing up with dozens of supposed reasons Austin's marked for a strike. The line at Franklin BBQ is fingered in this one representative sample: 

Original Post (8:39 a.m.): North Korean director Kim Jong Un must not have gotten into that South by Southwest showcase he really wanted to see, because he's named Austin as a target in his latest threat to attack the U.S. mainland.

Early Friday morning, The London Telegraph reported North Korea has revealed a plan to place strategic rockets on standby to fire U.S. targets. Besides Austin, North Korea is also supposedly targeting Hawaii, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles. The news followed photos of an "emergency meeting" that ran in a state-run newspaper, featuring large scale maps that appeared to target the Capitol City.

But Austin residents probably don't need to worry about fleeing – and creating the mother of all I-35 traffic jams.

Most international experts believe North Korea is years away from developing nuclear-tipped missiles that could strike the United States and really befoul Barton Springs. Experts also say North Korea doesn't even have long-range missiles that can hit the U.S. mainland.

North Korea's threat against Austin is amongst growing conflicts and tensions with the United States. While former NBA star Dennis Rodman doesn't seem to have an issue with the country, the U.S. and the U.N. have been critical of North Korea's attempts to develop a nuclear program.