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Terrorism & Security

US shores up missile defense in Hawaii in response to N. Korea threat

The US deployed antimissile defense systems in response to reports that North Korea could launch a long-range missile toward the island early next month.

By Liam Stack / June 19, 2009



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The US military has deployed antimissile systems to Hawaii to beef up the islands' defenses in response to intelligence reports that North Korea may test-fire long-range ballistic missiles toward the state around the July 4 holiday.

Analysts say North Korea has little to gain from shooting test missiles at the United States, and suggest this latest move could reflect internal political divisions over the country's foreign policy and the eventual succession of its leader, Kim Jong-il. The secretive state heightened its threatening rhetoric after the UN Security Council imposed sanctions on the North in response to its nuclear test May 25. North Korea, which has also tested long- and short-range missiles in the past months, has threatened to respond "a thousand-fold" if provoked.

Citing analysis from Japan's Defense Ministry and information from US satellites, the Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun reported on Thursday that long-range Taepodong-2 missiles were brought to the North's Tongchang-ri launch site on May 30. Japan reportedly believes "it is highly likely [they] will be launched toward Hawaii" between July 4 and July 8, the anniversary of the 1994 death of former North Korean leader Kim Il-sung, who was Kim Jong-il's father.

However, it is unlikely the test missiles would reach US territory, says Yomiuri. Taepodong-2 missiles have a range of 4,000 – 6,500 kilometers (2,485 – 4,038 miles), but Hawaii and North Korea are 7,000 kilometers (4,349 miles) apart.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates would not say how the US plans to respond to any North Korean tests, but expressed confidence in its ability to handle the situation, reports the Los Angeles Times. The Times reports that a ship-based radar relay docked in Hawaii known as SBX has been assigned to watch the skies. The Pentagon has also sent the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system to the state, and placed missile interceptors in California and Alaska on the ready. Working together, the network is designed to shoot an approaching missile out of the sky.

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