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A U.S. Army base in South Korea accidentally blasted an emergency siren Thursday night instead of the somber notes of taps, officials said, igniting brief panic on the base amid North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s threats of an unwelcome “Christmas gift.”

Taps, the melancholy bugler’s song played at military funerals, was supposed to be sounded on Camp Casey’s announcement system at 10 p.m., as is custom at Army installations to mark the end of the day, said Army Lt. Col. Martyn Crighton, a spokesman for the 2nd Infantry Division.

But Crighton said “human error” instead prompted the sounds of an emergency siren wafting through the freezing air throughout Camp Casey, the closest U.S. Army base to the North Korean border – and a likely prime target for missile strikes in the event of an attack.


The mistake bewildered service members on base, who said in a Reddit thread posted soon after the incident that soldiers were “riled up,” and some ran through the halls in full uniform before the error was realized.

A short time after that, U.S. Army WTF! moments, a popular digital hangout for soldiers, posted a video it said it received from a soldier at Camp Casey. Crighton said he couldn’t confirm the video was from Thursday.

The siren heard is commonly called an air raid siren. That is one function among others to generally warn soldiers to begin “alert procedures,” he said.

Soldiers were “immediately” notified of the mistake, and control measures were put in place to ensure it is not repeated, Crighton said, though he did not say how much time passed between the false alarm and notification of the mistake.

Although it is unclear how the incident occurred Thursday, it appears similar to a 2018 incident in Hawaii, when an operator at the emergency management agency accidentally alerted the state that a nuclear missile strike was imminent as tension with North Korea mounted.

But like that moment, the botched alert in South Korea came at precisely the wrong time.

Earlier this month, the North Korean regime had given the United States until the end of the year to drop its “hostile policy” and revamp its approach to denuclearization talks – or face an ominous Christmas threat.

As The Post’s Simon Denyer reported, Ri Thae Song, vice foreign minister in charge of U.S. affairs, lashed out at the Trump administration in early December, saying dialogue with the United States has been nothing but a “foolish trick.”


Ri then again reminded the United States of the fast-approaching deadline, effectively repeating a veiled threat to resume long-range missile tests.

“The DPRK has done its utmost with maximum perseverance not to backtrack from the important steps it has taken on its own initiative,” he said in a statement carried by the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency. “What is left to be done now is the U.S. option, and it is entirely up to the U.S. what Christmas gift it will select to get.”

Taps, the heart-wrenching, 24-note song known for its use at military funerals, was originally conceived to signal lights out for military units.

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The Washington Post’s Simon Denyer contributed to this report.



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