Twitter went into meltdown mode Thursday night when The Associated Press decided to ask if the U.S. should shoot down a North Korean missile bound for either Guam or the mainland.
“If North Korea sent missiles toward Guam or the U.S., could the U.S. missile defense system shoot them down? Should it?” the tweet asked, linking to an article outlining the pros and cons of such a decision:
The story from the AP’s Eric Talmadge came just days after President Donald Trump vowed the military would rain down “fire and fury” on North Korea should dictator Kim Jong Un make any more threats against the United States.
The hermit kingdom responded to the president’s bold rhetoric by announcing a plan to fire four missiles near Guam, a U.S. island territory in the Pacific, that will be ready for Kim Jong Un’s consideration in a matter of days.
The intermediate-range missiles would be fired east, over Japan, and would fall roughly 18 to 25 miles off the coast of Guam, according to Pyongyang's state-run news.
Guam’s largest newspaper, the Pacific Daily News, responded Friday to the threat with an ominous two-word headline: “14 Minutes,” referencing the amount of time it would take North Korean missiles to reach the small island.
In addition, Guam’s Homeland Security and Office of Civil Defense issued a safety fact sheet to the territory’s 160,000 residents on “preparing for an imminent missile threat” in response to North Korea’s potential missile launch.
“Do not look at the flash or fireball — it can blind you,” the fact sheet instructed. “Take cover behind anything that might offer protection.”
All things considered, it should come as no surprise people on social media took issue with the AP’s tweet and headline. Most were quick to tell the news outlet that, of course, the U.S. should shoot down a potentially deadly missile heading for Guam, where 7,000 American troops are stationed.
Here’s just a sampling of the tweets sent in response to Talmadge’s story:
To be fair, the actual story is less absurd sounding than the tweet. The article addresses whether or not the U.S. should shoot down missile tests that are not expected to actually reach Guam.
And there are legitimate concerns about that, according to retired Army Lt. Col. Kevin Govern, who worked in special operations forces at SOCOM and advised the Defense Department.
He now serves as a law professor at the Ave Maria School of Law and an executive board member for the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law.
“It is uncertain what the perceived message would be if North Korean missiles are launched and not countered in some manner,” Govern said, adding that a failed attempt by the U.S. to intercept Kim Jong Un’s missiles could “embolden” North Korea, “endangering the intended [or] actual target territories, and undermining the credibility of both countries’ assurances that their antimissile systems can work.”
But the tweet certainly didn’t sound good. This Twitter user summed it up perfectly:
Editor's note: This article was updated after publication to include the comments from Lt. Col. Kevin Govern.