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Are bomb shelters an 'option' to crisis, too?

By Zhao Huanxing | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-08-30 11:32

Are bomb shelters an 'option' to crisis, too?

A look inside an Atlas Survival Shelter. The Montebello, California-based company says it expects to sell hundreds this year. PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY

US President Donald Trump warned that "all options" are again on the table on Tuesday after Pyongyang tested another ballistic missile in three days, this time a rare firing of a projectile over mainland Japan.

The new firing has triggered consternation on the ground, causing sirens blaring in Japanese towns, stocks to dip on Wall Street, and diplomats from Seoul and Beijing to Moscow to call for either further sanctions or more restraints.

But what can an average citizen - not president - do under the apocalyptic threat of a missile or nuclear war? Among a myriad of answers, the headline on a news story caught my attention: "Bomb shelter business booms as Trump and North Korea posture'.'

The escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula has raised the specter of nuclear attack, which has given rise to bomb shelter business booms in the US and elsewhere, according to a story from the McClatchy news agency in Washington.

Ron Hubbard, president of Atlas Survival Shelters in Montebello, California, which produces what it touts to be the "only bunkers tested against the effects of a nuclear bomb", said he expects to sell at least "1,000 big bomb shelters and tornado shelters combined" this year, compared with 10 bomb shelters in 2011.

"The rise in shelters (sales and inquires) has increased in both America and Japan", Hubbard told China Daily on Tuesday. He said there were no customers in China but a few inquiries from South Korea.

Another company, Rising S Bunkers in Murchison, Texas, has sold 67 bomb shelters this year, mostly to Japan, compared to just nine for all of 2016, according to the McClatchy report on Sunday.

Hubbard is arguably right to claim that "shelters are the only solution to the crisis and there is nothing else a person can do except take shelter if a bomb comes in".

But the question is not only how many people can afford the luxury, or how many such bunkers are enough. It is a simple one: Is it a solution that most rational people would resort to?, not to mention the nuclear fallout and the environment the lucky few survivors would have to face after walking out of their special underground quarters.

Instead of putting humans in a cage, we need to cage the beast, so that we can wander the safari park with ease.

Back to the reality on the Korean Peninsula, the root cause for the current war rhetoric of the leadership, the panic among the masses, and the impulse for some to own a shelter, is that we have seen a cycle of endless nuclear tests, missile launches and military drills.

Each party has its own legitimate security concerns. Pyongyang vows to never give up its weapons programs, or what it says is its right to take "tough counter-measures" against hostility from the United States and its allies, particularly the ongoing annual US-ROK military exercises on the peninsula.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Tuesday said that "enough is enough," while Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said: "It's troubling, because tensions are high and whose nerves are stronger, we don't know."

Beijing, which Washington has repeatedly tried to woo for more influence on Pyongyang, has attempted to come up with a suspension-for-suspension proposal, which calls for the suspension of nuclear and missile activities by Pyongyang, and the suspension of massive military exercises by Washington and Seoul.

Chinese diplomats in Beijing and beyond have said such a dual-track approach accommodates the legitimate security concerns of all parties, serves to bring the sides back to the negotiating table and would seek a balanced and comprehensive solution through dialogue and negotiation while ensuring long-term peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula.

Hours after Pyongyang fired the latest test missile, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a regular news briefing: "I suggest you think about the scenario when China calls for restraint, calmness and dialogue, while directly concerned parties keep conducting military exercises and ratcheting up military pressure, against the background of flying missiles launched by another party.

"Then, who should take the blame and who should do more?" Hua asked.

"Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants," exclaimed US World War II General Omar Bradley, who once oversaw the US military's policymaking during the Korean War. "We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living."

The US is now grappling with and recovering from the natural catastrophe of Hurricane Harvey, which killed at least 11 people and paralyzed Houston. The fourth most-populous US city has opened more mega-shelters to house flooded families.

Let's forget the bomb shelters for now and go all out to prevent man-made disasters.

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