While Hawaiians were terrified for nearly 40 minutes on Saturday after a false alarm was sent out indicating that the island was about to get hit by a missile, an odd loophole in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s charter means the state is vulnerable to an “armed attack.”
In the case that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un launched a missile toward the U.S., it would undoubtedly trigger a colossal response from the United States.
But what about our NATO allies?
An old loophole in the NATO charter indicates that an attack on Hawaii wouldn’t be covered under contingencies that would result in a response from the 28 NATO members.
According to Article 5 of the Protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty on the Accession of Greece and Turkey:
The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
However, a major loophole in Article 6 leaves Hawaii dangerously vulnerable:
For the purpose of Article 5, an armed attack on one or more of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack … on the territory of any of the Parties in Europe or North America, on the Algerian Departments of France, on the territory of or on the Islands under the jurisdiction of any of the Parties in the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer.
When the NATO Charter was agreed to and signed in 1949, Hawaii – located in the Pacific Ocean – was 10 years away from officially becoming a state, which means it is technically not afforded the same NATO protections as the U.S.
At the time, U.S. officials didn’t anticipate Hawaii being more than an “overseas territory,” but now that it is a state, it raises major questions about whether NATO would be allowed to get involved should the rogue regime attack the island.
If North Korea launches a missile at Hawaii, assuming our missile defense systems didn’t take it down before it reached landfall, one would certainly hope NATO wouldn’t hesitate to assist the U.S. because of vague language in the charter.
And Trump has made it clear he will use the full might and power of the U.S. military to destroy the regime should it attack America or its allies.
While the question of Article 6 is mostly academic, it’s certainly very odd and concerning that such a worrisome loophole was buried into the NATO charter.