North Korean Missile Threat

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Hawaii is one of the places that experts say a North Korean missile could reach. With the strong U.S. military presence in the islands, there are concerns that the state might be a target.

North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong Un, have been vocal about the extent to which the country is expanding its nuclear missile capabilities, a situation that has escalated tensions between North Korea and the United States as well as other U.S. allies.

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Background

In 2016 and 2017, North Korea embarked on a series of missile tests. Those tests were downplayed by U.S. military strategists until July 2017 when officials concluded that North Korea had indeed successfully developed the capability to launch a missile that could reach Hawaii, Alaska and possibly the continental U.S. It was not clear whether North Korea had developed the capability of arming a missile with a nuclear weapon. The United Nations Security Council unanimously imposed stringent economic sanctions on North Korea. In August 2017, as rhetoric between President Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un ramped up, North Korea threatened to fire a missile at Guam after Trump declared any aggression by North Korea would be met with "fire and fury." Although many experts believed the risk of an imminent on Hawaii was slim, the verbal threats by North Korea became more alarming. Hawaii is home to the Pacific Command and would likely serve as an important staging area for American forces in the Pacific in the event of greater hostilities breaking out. Hawaii has played that role in every major conflict since the island nation was annexed by the United States in 1898. Hawaii's civil defense agency issued guidelines to residents that included: listen for warning sirens, stay away from windows and remain sheltered until they are told it is safe to exit or for 14 days, "whichever comes first," according to the directive.

False Missile Alert

On Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency inadvertently sent an alert to tens of thousands of Hawaii cellphones that warned of an inbound ballistic missile. The alert caused widespread panic in the islands until the agency was able to issue a second message saying it was a false alarm. That took 38 minutes and by that time many residents and visitors had run for shelter, some trying to shelter in place in their homes and others seeking refuge in concrete parking structures and commercial  buildings. It turned out an employee hit the wrong button during a routine drill that was intended to be internal only. Hawaii officials, including Gov. David Ige, were the subject of major criticism. Ige promised a full review and appointed a top military leader to lead an investigation.  

Resources

What The North Korean Summit Means For Missile Defense In Hawaii Cory Lum/Civil Beat

What The North Korean Summit Means For Missile Defense In Hawaii

Elected officials and experts say despite the easing of tensions there is still a need for improved defense capabilities in Hawaii.

Botched Hawaii Missile Alert Prompts Advice On Drills Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Botched Hawaii Missile Alert Prompts Advice On Drills

Avoid using the phrase, “This is not a drill,” the Federal Communications Commission says.

Was The ‘Button Pusher’ A Problem Employee? State Won’t Release Details AP

Was The ‘Button Pusher’ A Problem Employee? State Won’t Release Details

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency said the worker who sent out a false missile alert had a record of incompetency, but he disputes that.

Hawaii Picks New Leader For Agency That Sent False Missile Alert AP

Hawaii Picks New Leader For Agency That Sent False Missile Alert

Thomas Travis has commanded a submarine squadron and was deputy commander of an aircraft carrier strike group.

Hawaii Releases Redacted Recording Of Missile Alert Drill Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

Hawaii Releases Redacted Recording Of Missile Alert Drill

“Exercise, exercise, exercise” and “this is not a drill” can be heard on the 24-second recording.

Report: Hawaii’s Emergency Warning Agency Needs An Overhaul Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Report: Hawaii’s Emergency Warning Agency Needs An Overhaul

Hawaii needs to spend millions of dollars to effectively warn the public about looming disasters, including a missile strike, a new report says.

Hawaii Emergency Worker Gets Threats After Misleading Photo AP

Hawaii Emergency Worker Gets Threats After Misleading Photo

An old photo of the HEMA employee circulated after the false missile alert, leading some to conclude he was at fault.

Hawaii Man Says He’s Devastated About Sending Missile Alert AP

Hawaii Man Says He’s Devastated About Sending Missile Alert

UPDATED: The fired Hawaii Emergency Management Agency employee contradicted parts of what his supervisors have said.

Hawaii Missile Defense Test Failed To Intercept Target AP

Hawaii Missile Defense Test Failed To Intercept Target

The interceptor was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai.

Tick Tock Of Terror: New Details In Missile Alert Timeline AP

Tick Tock Of Terror: New Details In Missile Alert Timeline

The worker who sent it out heard, “This is not a drill,” but he didn’t hear, “Exercise, exercise, exercise.”

Man Who Sent Out False Missile Alert Was ‘Source Of Concern’ For A Decade Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Man Who Sent Out False Missile Alert Was ‘Source Of Concern’ For A Decade

UPDATED: A state investigation says the employee, who was fired Friday, had previously mistaken drills for real threats.

Worker Who Sent Alarm Thought Missile Attack Was Real Screen shot

Worker Who Sent Alarm Thought Missile Attack Was Real

The worker mistook a drill for an actual warning and sent the alert without a supervisor’s sign-off, said the Federal Communications Commission.