Pacific military leader concerned about North Korea’s missile threat to Hawaii


Does Hawaii face a nuclear missile threat from North Korea?

The top U.S. commander in the Pacific says yes.

During a House Armed Services Committee hearing Wednesday on Capitol Hill, Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., U.S. Pacific Command, said Hawaii may not be fully protected.

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D, Hawaii, raised the question: “Given Hawaii is home to your headquarters, how do you characterize the threat of North Korea specifically to Hawaii and how confident are you in our current BMD (ballistic missile defense) capabilities against that threat?”

“I am concerned about it,” he replied. “I believe that that our ballistic missile architecture is sufficient to protect Hawaii today, but it can be overwhelmed and you know if, if Kim Jong-un or someone else launched ballistic missiles, ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) against the United States, someone would have to make a decision on which ones to take out or not. So that’s a difficult decision.

“My personal opinion is that we would be better served with a defensive Hawaii radar and interceptors in Hawaii,” Harris continued. “I know that that’s being discussed and I don’t want to get ahead of those discussions, but I think we ought to study it for sure, and then make that decision as a department what the best way forward is. But Kim Jong-un is clearly in a position to threaten Hawaii today in my opinion.”

“How confident are you in that technology that’s being discussed and being able to effectively intercept an ICBM towards us?” Gabbard asked.

“It depends on the systems,” he said. “I’m getting ahead of ourselves just a little bit because you know, I’m suggesting that we study the basic of interceptors in Hawaii. The type of interceptors, you know, that’s the next level of detail, which I’m not part of that discussion. I think that the defensive Hawaii radar is coming. I think the interceptors piece is something that is yet to be determined, but I believe we should certainly look at it, and I think we’d be somehow not doing our job if we didn’t look at it.”

We checked with Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, and learned it is currently updating plans and fallout shelter list, which is old and out of date.

Click here to download the last community shelter plan.

A fallout shelter isn’t a blast shelter, but it could protect you from the radioactive material and debris from an explosion.

“The time from missile launch to impact, I’ve heard between 12 minutes to 20 minutes or under 20 minutes, so again, we have to get ahead of it,” said Vern miyagi, Hawaii Emergency Management Agency administrator. “People need to know where they are going to go ahead of time.”

Denny Roy, a senior research fellow at the East-West Center, says North Korea creates an image that they are not afraid of war, but he calls their threats bluffs.

“Most of what North Korea says about the United States is a double-bluff,” he said. “It’s not only a bluff in the sense that they wouldn’t try to do it, but in the sense that they couldn’t do it.”

The main message from HI-EMA is to have a plan. For example, where are you going to go? You need to know where the nearest building is where you can shelter in place. How are you going to communicate with your family? What are you going to bring? You have to have at least two weeks worth of supplies.

“A 15-kiloton device in Honolulu is not a good thing obviously,” Miyagi said. “It’s something that we have not trained for other than some small devices for that anti-terrorism things.”

There’s no estimate on when the fallout shelter list will be completed.

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