Tensions rise between North Korea and United States

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tensions between North Korea and the United States have escalated after the the United States Navy began tracking a North Korean ship suspected of carrying illegal weapons or technology. Media reports from Japan also claim that the North may launch a long range missile toward the U.S. state of Hawaii in July.

Image: Acdx.

The North Korean flagship, the Kang Nam, is currently in the Pacific Ocean and is reported to be heading toward Singapore.

North Korea has warned that any effort to stop its ships would be considered an act of war. The U.S. started tracking the ship because one unnamed official alleged that the ship is a repeat offender of carrying illegal materials. The U.S. says they have no intentions of boarding the ship using force, but would act in accordance with United Nations resolutions and ask for permission to board the vessel. If the U.S. Navy does not receive permission to board the vessel, then no military, U.S. or otherwise, will attempt to board it using force, although America's top military officer says the U.S. Navy is prepared to stop the ship.

North Korea also stepped up its defense. Japanese media reported today that North Korea may launch a Taepodong-2 missile between July 4 and 8 towards the U.S. state of Hawaii. The missile has a range of no more than 4,000 miles (6,500 km), but the nearest Hawaiian island is 4,500 miles away.

North Korea threatened to fire an intercontinental ballistic missile if the U.N. Security Council did not apologize for punishing it for an April rocket launch, that violated U.N. resolutions. They also responded to the sanctions saying they would start a uranium enrichment program, which could lead to a new atomic bomb and the use of its plutonium to make an estimated 6 bombs.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has activated Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Sea Based X-Band (SBX) to counter any North Korean missile launched towards Hawaii, even if there is no immediate threat to the state. Also Mr. Gates said the anti-air missiles in Alaska were ready if there is a launch by North Korea.

"We do have some concerns if they were to launch a missile to the west in the direction of Hawaii," said U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Joint Chiefs of Staff vice chairman Gen. James Cartwright says North Korea may be able to hit a major U.S. West coast city in three or five years, but went on to state that it would be very unlikely to be a nuclear weapon. North Korea tested a nuclear bomb — its second nuclear test — on May 25.

"The ground-based interceptors are clearly in a position to take action. So, without telegraphing what we will do, I would just say ... I think we are in a good position, should it become necessary, to protect the American territory," added Gates.