Saturday, November 28, 2015

Hawaiians not fazed by rumors of N. Korean missile launch

HONOLULU - Comforted by the U.S. military's missile defense systems, Hawaii residents doubt a North Korean missile would light up the clear island sky like fireworks on the Fourth of July.

But that doesn't mean the islands' laid-back beachgoers aren't worried that a long-range missile could be launched in the direction of Hawaii's emerald mountains and white sand beaches around Independence Day.

"The North Koreans are unbalanced and could try anything," said Dan Gleason while walking his Jack Russell mix dog in downtown Honolulu. "If they do hit Honolulu, I hope it's a good shot, because I don't want to go through the aftermath."

Japanese media have reported the North Koreans appear to be preparing for a long-range test near July 4. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered additional protections for Hawaii in case a missile is launched over the Pacific Ocean.

But only one concerned person with a Hawaii trip planned has called the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau seeking information, state tourism liaison Marsha Wienert said Friday. With Hawaii's huge military presence, no one should be afraid to travel to the islands, she said.

"We believe that this is a very safe destination," she said.

Hawaiians said they were confident the military was prepared to defend the state.

On Wednesday, a military radar system - shaped like a giant golf ball - slowly disappeared from Hawaii's coast as it headed out to sea. The 28-story missile X-Band defense radar is designed to work with ground-based missile interceptors on the island of Kauai to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles.

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system was returned to Hawaii after the mobile launcher recently was tested at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Since 2005, all six tests of the ground-based missile system have intercepted their targets, excluding tests when the targets malfunctioned, Missile Defense Agency spokeswoman Pam Rogers said.

"We're in a good position should it become necessary to protect American territory," Pacific Fleet Lt. Cmdr. Chuck Bell said.

That's reassuring, said Sean Sackett, who sells espresso around Honolulu from his "Joe on the Go" coffee van.

"It doesn't get more threatening than them shooting missiles at us and seeing if they can reach us," he said. "Our military is good enough to shoot anything out of the sky that comes close to us."

Associated Press
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