Report: N. Korea targeted Hawaii
But local military officials downplay the article by a Japanese paper
North Korea targeted waters near Hawaii when it fired a long-range missile this week, according to a Japanese newspaper report that isle military officials immediately downplayed.
"The U.S. Pacific Command could not verify the report," said Navy Capt. Jeff Alderson, spokesman for the Commander in Chief of the Pacific. "The U.S. Pacific Command continues to pay attention to the situation."
The report published today (yesterday in Hawaii) in the daily Sankei cited unnamed U.S. and Japanese officials as saying surveillance data indicated the target of the Taepodong-2 missile was the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii, headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
The officials decided that the missile was pointed toward Hawaii, from its angle immediately after launch and the altitude it reached, after analyzing data collected by destroyers equipped with the Aegis radar combat system and RC-135S electronic reconnaissance aircraft, the newspaper said.
The director of Hawaii's Department of Defense said the report in the Japan newspaper was not grounds to ignite concerns in the state.
"It is not a source I would stake a Civil Defense decision on," said state Adjutant Gen. Robert Lee. He said he would take it seriously if information came from the Pacific Command, which "has not happened."
The long-range missile, one of seven test missiles launched Wednesday, crashed into the sea between Korea and Japan 42 seconds after launch.
Pentagon officials said yesterday that the brief flight of the Taepodong-2 missile made it difficult to collect useful technical data, including its intended target, its payload and whether it was a two- or three-stage missile, according to an Associated Press report.
The Japanese daily said it was not immediately known why Hawaii was targeted, but added that analysts believe Pyongyang might have tried to demonstrate that the missile could reach the United States, or because Hawaii is home to the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
South Korea's defense minister was quoted today as saying intelligence reports suggest that North Korea might have another long-range Taepodong-2 at a launch site on the country's east coast but that another test does not appear imminent, the Yonhap news agency reported.
Honolulu is about 4,600 miles southwest of Pyongyang, North Korea's capital. According to wire service reports, the Taepodong-2 could travel as far as 9,300 miles with a light load.
Thirty-five ships of the U.S. fleet and eight other Pacific Rim nations began naval exercises in the Pacific yesterday. The Rim of the Pacific exercises will continue for 21 days.
A Japanese destroyer with advanced radar technology, here for RIMPAC, was recalled by Japan last week when information indicated the impending North Korea missile launch, according to an AP report.
At Kauai's Pacific Missile Range Facility, the training site for the sea-based ballistic missile defense system Aegis, there is little change as the result of the launch.
Tom Clements, a spokesman for PMRF, said the facility contains no missiles that could destroy an incoming target. Besides being the training grounds for the Aegis system, the base will also be home to the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense starting next year.
"Our purpose is to test and train missile and other weapons systems," Clements continued, adding that PMRF only provides the arena and the tracking systems for such a test.
Spokesman Rick Lehner of the Ballistic Missile Defense Agency, which controls the tests, did not return a call for comment.
The Associated Press and Star-Bulletin reporters Mary Adamski and Tom Finnegan contributed to this report.