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Hawaii needs China to corral North Korea


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POSTED: Friday, June 19, 2009

Only a week after the United Nations Security Council imposed new sanctions on North Korea for recent missile tests, Pyongyang reportedly is planning to launch a long-range ballistic missile in Hawaii's direction. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is taking appropriate measures to protect the islands if necessary, but pressure is needed from China to bring its rogue neighbor under control.

Gates said yesterday that he has positioned more missile defenses around Hawaii as a precaution against a possible North Korea launch, essentially verifying a report by Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's leading-circulation newspaper. The missile is believed to be a long-range, two-stage or three-stage Taepodong-2 with a range of up to 4,000 miles, the newspaper reported, and is reported to be planned for launching from North Korea's northwestern coast, about 4,500 miles from Hawaii.

North Korea was reported to have targeted waters near Hawaii three years ago with a similar missile that crashed into the sea between Korea and Japan 42 seconds after launch. The plan reportedly is to launch the missile between the Fourth of July and July 8, the 15th anniversary of founder Kim Il Sung's death. The 2006 launching was on July 5.

Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn told a Senate committee earlier this week that it would take at least three to five years for North Korea to pose a real threat to the U.S. West Coast, at a distance of about 6,000 miles. Gates said yesterday he had sent the military's ground-based mobile missile system to Hawaii and positioned a radar system nearby.

Dictator Kim Jong Il's saber rattling comes as no surprise. He has engaged in bizarre behavior for years, and has benefited through attempts to mollify him with humanitarian assistance. Chinese and Russian leaders now are calling for a return to the six-way talks consisting of themselves, the two Koreas, the U.S. and Japan, but that is impossible under present circumstances.

China denounced a missile test conducted by North Korea last month and supported what its ambassador called the international community's “;firm opposition”; to Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions. That was in contrast to its earlier ambivalence in fear of destabilizing North Korea and causing a stampede of refugees into China.

The United States should refuse to bribe Pyongyang with economic aid. “;There's been a pattern in the past where North Korea behaves in a belligerent fashion, and if it waits long enough is then rewarded,”; President Barack Obama said this week. “;We are going to break that pattern.”;