Lawmakers, experts assess North Korean threat to Hawaii

Updated: Apr. 15, 2017 at 1:18 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Tense relations between North Korea and the United States have been heightened, with both countries talking about the threat of war -- a threat some people believe could affect Hawaii.

The authoritarian regime is said to be preparing for another nuclear test and is developing missiles that could reach the Hawaiian islands.

Those concerns come as North Korea celebrates the 105th birthday of its founder, Kim Il Sung. A lavish celebration was held in Pyongyang with Kim's grandson and current dictator Kim Jong Un, and included a display of the nation's military might. The parade showed prototype intercontinental ballistic missiles that could threaten Hawaii.

But not quite yet.

"North Korea doesn't yet have the capability to hit any part of the United States with the nuclear armed missile," said Denny Roy of the East-West Center. However, "they're working on it."

Like the rest of the world, Roy -- who's an expert on security issues in Northeast Asia -- is tracking the possibility of a nuclear test in the days ahead. However, he doubts North Korea would every actually use its nuclear weapons, "because use of nuclear weapons would mean the end of the regime and the extinction of North Korea."

Despite the high stakes, both President Trump and Kim Jong Un have been upping the ante with tough talk. And America's recent military actions in Syria and Afghanistan have also increased tensions.

"At a time when we have this kind of saber rattling and really blustering foreign policy, it does make people a little nervous," said state Rep. Matt LoPresti (D-Ewa, Ewa Beach). He's supporting a resolution to update Hawaii's disaster plans to deal with a worst-case scenario. Those plans are outdated and show a lack of available shelters in case of attack.

"They haven't been updated since 1985," said LoPresti. "I was eleven years old when they were last updated. Many of the buildings that are on the fallout shelter list don't exist anymore."

He also said those disaster plans and shelters should be in place, even if North Korea backs down. "Then you have them available, whether there's a hurricane, fallout, or whatever it is. So it's just not one kind of disaster."

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