WASHINGTON, D.C. (KHNL) - The U.S. warned North Korea Thursday not to launch a missile in the next few days. It's believed to be a rocket carrying a satellite into orbit, but this test could have long range implications, especially for us on the west coast.
The long range missile North Korea is testing is called the Taepodong II. Now theoretically it could reach Alaska, and even us right here in Hawaii. A North Korea expert says there is no immediate threat, but President Barack Obama isn't taking this lightly.
North Korea caught the world's attention once again by announcing it would set off a missile as early as this weekend. The North Korean government says it's launching a satellite.
"However the outside countries have interpreted this as another installment in the North Korean refinement of its missile capabilities, its long-range missile capabilities," said Denny Roy, a senior fellow at the East-West Center who is an expert on North Korea. 'Specifically refining the capabilities of their latest long range missile."
The Taepodong II could theoretically hit Hawaii, Alaska or even the U.S. west coast. The situation's serious enough for the president to keep an eye on it.
"But obviously we also have a great range of issues to discuss on defense, on peace and stability in the korean peninsula," said President Obama.
But Roy thinks this is political posturing, rather than a serious military threat.
"From North Korea's point of view, invoking that kind of a conflict with the United States would mean their destruction," he said.
Still, North Korea appears it's trying to increase its visibility and bargaining power on the international stage. The North Korean government is holding two American reporters hostage, charging Laura Ling and Euna Lee with "illegal entry of U.S. reporters into the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) and their suspected hostile acts," according to KCNA, North Korea's News Service.
"That's a very worrisome situation because hostage taking offers another avenue for North Korea to gain foreign attention, put pressure on foreign governments," said Roy. "And unfortunately these individuals may be used as pawns in a larger political game."
A game with six key players and an unknown outcome.
"The larger question is, do we want to come to terms with North Korea's security concerns?" said Roy. "Do we want to have a relationship that would help bring North Korea into the international political and economic modern world?"
Japan got its missile defense system ready to shoot down any debris that land on Japan. And North Korea responds by saying, it will attack the Japanese military if Japan shoots down the missile. The U.S. once again, warns North Korea, don't launch the rocket.