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June 29, 09

NEWS / Obama Says U.S. Prepared for Any North Korean Threat

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Staff Writer

Washington — The United States is prepared if North Korea launches a long-range ballistic missile in the direction of Hawaii near the July 4 weekend, President Obama says.

“This administration, and our military, is fully prepared for any contingencies,” Obama said in a CBS News interview broadcast June 22.

North Korea conducted a nuclear weapons test in May and launched a Taepondong-2 long-range ballistic missile in April. After the weapons test, the U.N. Security Council June 12 voted unanimously to impose a new set of economic, trade and security sanctions on North Korea. The Security Council also unanimously condemned the April rocket launch.

Since then, numerous sources have indicated that North Korea appears set on testing another long-range missile, an act that is prohibited by a 2006 U.N. Security Council resolution.

“I don’t want to speculate on hypotheticals,” the president said of North Korea’s purported missile threat. “But I do want to give assurances to the American people that the t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted in terms of what might happen.”

“What we’re not going to do is to reward belligerence and provocation in the way that’s been done in the past,” the president said.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said during a Pentagon press briefing June 18 that he has ordered additional precautions should North Korea choose to launch a long-range missile toward Hawaii.

“So without telegraphing what we will do, I would just say, we are, I think we are in a good position, should it become necessary to protect American territory,” Gates said.

North Korea’s Taepondong-2 missile reportedly has a maximum range of 6,700 kilometers, enough to reach Hawaii, Alaska and most of East Asia. However, the April launch failed soon after liftoff and plunged into the Pacific Ocean, similar to a 2006 launch that failed on liftoff.

Noting that South Korea, Japan and the Security Council, which includes Russia, China, the United States, France and the United Kingdom, unanimously agreed June 12 on the additional sanctions after concluding that North Korea has violated international law, Obama said, “I think the international community here has spoken.”

“One of the things that we have been very clear about is that North Korea has a path toward rejoining the international community, and we hope they take that path,” Obama said.

Defense Under Secretary Michele Flournoy is scheduled to meet with Chinese defense officials in Beijing June 23–24 for the U.S.-China Defense Consultative Talks. The issue of North Korea and its missile tests is expected to be a significant part of the talks. Flournoy is expected to travel on to Seoul for further talks with South Korean officials.

China, the United States, South Korea, Japan and Russia have been conducting multilateral discussions with North Korea — known as the Six-Party Talks — to convince the regime of Kim Jong-il to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions.

And the U.S. Navy is tracking the whereabouts of the 2,000-ton North Korean-flagged, cargo ship Kang Nam after it left Nampo, a port near the North Korean capital Pyongyang on June 17. Admiral Mike Mullen, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, said in a Pentagon press briefing June 18 that the United States would enforce the terms of the latest U.N. Security Council resolution (1874), which is designed to stop North Korea from exporting nuclear weapons, weapons’ materials or missiles and missile parts.

That resolution includes provisions for interdicting ships suspected of carrying such prohibited cargo.

The transcript of the June 18 briefing with Gates and Mullen is available on America.gov.



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