Possible launch unnerving for Hawaii residents

HONOLULU — Comforted by the U.S. military’s missile defense systems, Hawaii residents doubt a North Korean missile would light up the clear island sky like fireworks on the Fourth of July.

But that doesn’t mean the islands’ laid-back beach-goers aren’t worried that a long-range missile could be launched in the direction of Hawaii’s emerald mountains and white sand beaches around Independence Day.

“The North Koreans are unbalanced and could try anything,” said Dan Gleason while walking his Jack Russell mix dog in downtown Honolulu. “If they do hit Honolulu, I hope it’s a good shot, because I don’t want to go through the aftermath.”

Japanese media have reported the North Koreans appear to be preparing for a long-range test near July 4. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered additional protections for Hawaii in case a missile is launched over the Pacific Ocean.

But only one concerned person with a Hawaii trip planned has called the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau seeking information, state tourism liaison Marsha Wienert said Friday. With Hawaii’s huge military presence, no one should be afraid to travel to the islands, she said.

“We believe that this is a very safe destination,” she said.

Retiree Mae Dong, a Honolulu resident of more than 50 years, said the United States must remain resolute in the face of any North Korean aggression.

“It’s disturbing,” she said Friday. “We cannot run. We have to fight them.”

A number of Hawaii residents said they were confident the military was prepared to defend the state, unlike when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941.