Easter Weekend Special: A Reason to Worry Less About the North Korean Threat

North Korean missiles might threaten America -- if they knew how to get there. This is not an April Fool's Day item.

Many world news agencies carried this wonderful map, via NKNews.org, of the strike plan Kim Jong Un is preparing so as to make good on his threat to engulf U.S. cities like Austin and Washington D.C. in "a sea of fire." Note the paths shown for missile-strike assaults on North American cities.


A natural-sciences professor at an East Coast university sent me this note just now:
>>Take a close look at the North Korea war room photos.  The maps showing the ballistic missile trajectories use a flat earth projection- straight in over the Pacific Ocean.  I haven't seen comment on this.<< 
Indeed! Here is what the actual path for a missile going from Pyongyang (or thereabouts) to Austin would look like, courtesy of the wonderful Great Circle Mapper site. "FNJ" is the code for the airport in Pyongyang -- there is one.


And the path from Pyongyang to downtown Washington is so different from a straight-line trans-Pacific route that Great Circle Mapper has to show it from a polar perspective:


This doesn't mean there's no reason to worry about current tensions on the Korean peninsula. But it might mean that Kim Jong Un has some "Hey, wait a minute... " questions to ask his strategic planners. Or perhaps he should buy them a globe. I should probably add that I didn't manage to get this posted before March 31 had ended and April 1 began, but it very definitely is not an April Fool's Day item. The straight-line map was real. Or "real."

To see this item in "classic" view, as I very much recommend you do, please click here.

UPDATE BuzzFeed has essentially re-done this item, with a tiny "h/t The Atlantic" note, this morning. Maybe it's their April Fool's Day entry.
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

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