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A new anti-missile system ordered for Hawaii is partly a strategy to deter North Korea from test-firing a long-range missile across the Pacific and partly a precaution against the unpredictable regime, military officials said Friday.
The United States has no indication that North Korean missile technology has improved markedly since past failed launches, and military and other assessments suggest the communist nation probably could not hit the westernmost U.S. state if it tried, officials said.
The North's Taepodong-2 could travel that far in theory, if it works as designed. But thr
"I don't see any evidence that Hawaii is in more danger now than before the last TD-2 launch," said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the Nuclear Strategy and Nonproliferation Initiative at the New America Foundation.
It took North Korea about 12 days to complete ground preparations before the April launch of a Taepodong-2, roughly equivalent to a U.S. Titan missile.
If North Korea does launch a long-range missile from its new Dongchang-ni site on the west coast, it could be placed on a southeast trajectory toward Hawaii.
However, the only three long-range missiles fired by North Korea so far have fallen well short of the 4,500 miles required to reach the chain of American islands.
The North Korea missile launched in April traveled just under 2,000 miles before falling into the Pacific. That was about double the distance traveled by a similar missile launched in 1998. North Korea also launched a missile in 2006 but it fizzled shortly after take off.