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.