The military command overseeing America’s nuclear arsenal just made an embarrassing — and potentially dangerous — mistake.
On Wednesday afternoon, it tweeted a link to an article falsely claiming that the US maintains “secret silos” for its nuclear warheads, and has “B-1 bombers that can drop them from the air.”
The problem, as experts almost immediately pointed out on Twitter, is that the US doesn’thave “secret” silos — you can find their locations on Google — and the B-1 bomber isn’t capable of dropping nuclear bombs.
And here’s why this matters: Tweeting out the article only increases the chance of miscalculation between North Korea and the United States while tensions between the two nuclear powers are already sky-high.
Since there is very little communication between the two countries, any kind of message the US sends out is read by Pyongyang with great interest.
And as Van Jackson, an Asia security expert at Victoria University of Wellington, pointed outtoday, North Korea was already inclined to believe that the B-1 can carry — and drop — nuclear weapons. Now, it seems like the US military is confirming that suspicion.
That means the next time the US military flies the B-1 in a training exercise near or over the Korean Peninsula — which it did earlier this month — North Korea might think the plane is carrying nuclear weapons.
So it’s no wonder Jackson and Vipin Narang, a nuclear expert at MIT — among others — took to Twitter to denounce the tweet and the article as soon as they saw it.
Bad communication only makes US-North Korea tensions worse
Pyongyang and Washington are already in a war of words.
Last Saturday, Trump took to Twitter to call North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “short” and “fat.” In response, North Korea’s state-run paper Rodong Sinmun hit back, as reported by New York magazine:
Trump betrayed his true colors as an old lunatic, mean trickster and human reject during his one night and two days stay in South Korea,” the editorial said. “He should know that he is just a hideous criminal sentenced to death by the Korean people. He will be forced to pay dearly for his blasphemy any moment.
That’s a foreign newspaper, with tight connection to its government, stating it believes a sitting US president should be killed. Even though North Korea puts out many crazy-sounding statements, it doesn’t make the tensions any less real.
That’s why the US military should be much more careful about what it chooses to say — or not say — about America’s nuclear arsenal. North Korea takes those statements seriously, and any mistake, regardless of the cause, can make a tense situation even worse.