North Korea, which is preparing to launch what it calls a “peaceful” satellite, may have developed a missile with the range to reach Hawaii, said Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“In some cases, yes, they could probably get down to Hawaii,” Mullen said on CNN’s Situation Room program yesterday, when asked if North Korea has the ability to strike Hawaii or Alaska. The West Coast of the U.S. mainland is still out of the nation’s range, he said.
North Korea said earlier this month that it plans to orbit a satellite between April 4 and 8, a move South Korea suspects is a disguised ballistic missile test. Kim Jong Il may hope to gain the attention of U.S. President Barack Obama, even at the cost of harsher international sanctions, says Jeung Young Tae, a senior researcher at Korea Institute for National Unification.
“North Korea is suffering from poor economic conditions and wants direct talks with Washington to speed much-needed aid,” Jeung said today by phone in Seoul. “Kim wants to make sure his country isn’t ignored as the Obama administration deals with economic problems and Iraq.”
The U.S., China, Japan, South Korea and Russia are pressing North Korea to cancel the launch and re-focus on negotiations aimed at ending its nuclear weapons program.
Successful or not, a missile launch might force Washington to accept North Korea as a potential threat, leading eventually to direct talks even if it first prompts a toughening of international sanctions, Jeung said.
Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada yesterday ordered his forces to shoot down any North Korean missile or falling debris that enters its “airspace, waters or soil.”