U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancers have flown across South Korean airspace in recent months to warn North Korea. Alaskans say they are familiar with threats from foreign countries, given the proximity to Russia and their experience during the Cold War. File Photo by Tech. Sgt. Richard P. Ebensberger/U.S. Air Force/UPI | License Photo
July 6 (UPI) -- Alaskans are more worried about bear attacks and an ailing local economy than a potential North Korea missile that could reach their state.
In interviews with The Guardian, local residents of "The Last Frontier" said past experience during the Cold War has helped them adjust to the threat of armed conflict.
Robert Church, 45, told the British newspaper he is skeptical of North Korean claims of a "successful" intercontinental ballistic missile test.
"I was surprised they were able to get a missile to actually launch," Church said. "I'm concerned about the threat, but I don't have a lot of confidence in the North Korea scientists making a functional rocket that could reach Alaska."
David Brandt, a local delivery driver, recalled the Cold War years when the state would confront the threats of the former Soviet Union.
"The Russians would come and we'd chase them off...we'd scramble some planes," Brandt said.
Alaska's politicians, however, tell a different story in their public statements.
Gov. Bill Walker has said North Korea's missile provocations mean there is a need to "expand armed forces" in Alaska, and to add a strategic Arctic port.
"Given our proximity to growing foreign powers, and this week's test, that need is now more urgent than ever," Walker's office said in a statement.
International concerns are growing North Korea could have the capability for nuclear warhead miniaturization.
Olli Heinonen, the former deputy director-general for safeguards at the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Pyongyang could be already have miniaturized nuclear warheads in their arsenal.
Other analysts see North Korea's claims of a successfully tested intercontinental ballistic missile as a defense posture, not a sign it is preparing to attack outside forces.
David Kang, the director of the Korean Studies Institute at the University of Southern California, writes in The New York Times nuclear weapons are being used as a form of deterrence.
"They are designed to ensure the survival of the country and the regime," Kang writes.