The Fourth of July was a little more exciting than usual this year. In addition to celebrating the 230th anniversary of the USA's founding, a couple of events made news in their own right.
The first was the spectacular Independence Day launch of the space shuttle Discovery, on a mission to the International Space Station. (For you space geeks like me - okay, you probably already know this - the shuttle successfully docked with the station yesterday. You can get the latest on the mission over at Space.com.)
Unfortunately, later events knocked the shuttle to the bottom of the front page.
North Korea launched six ballistic missiles on Tuesday and a seventh on Wednesday. One of the Tuesday launches was North Korea's new Taepodong-2 missile, a new missile believed to be capable of hitting U.S. targets. Intelligence is certain those missiles can hit Alaska and Hawaii; the missiles may be able to hit West Coast cities as far south as Los Angeles.
Fortunately, the missile unexpectedly blew up 30 seconds after launch.
Then today came this piece of news:
N. Korea missile aimed at area off Hawaii - reportThere's some good news.
TOKYO (Reuters) - A North Korean missile launched on Wednesday was aimed at an area of the ocean close to Hawaii, a Japanese newspaper reported on Friday.
Experts estimated the Taepodong-2 ballistic missile to have a range of up to 6,000 km, putting Alaska within its reach. Wednesday's launch apparently failed shortly after take-off and the missile landed in the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan, a few hundred kilometres from the launch pad.
But data from U.S. and Japanese Aegis radar-equipped destroyers and surveillance aircraft on the missile's angle of take-off and altitude indicated that it was heading for waters near Hawaii, the Sankei Shimbun reported, citing multiple sources in the United States and Japan.
North Korea may have targeted Hawaii to show the United States that it was capable of landing a missile there, or because it is home to the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific fleet, the paper said.
An alternative explanation might be that a missile could accidentally hit land if fired towards Alaska, the report said.
A separate report in the Mainichi Shimbun daily cited U.S. and Japanese government officials as saying a piece of the Taepodong-2 missile fell off immediately after take-off, strengthening the view that the launch was a failure.
Now, I should caution that this is just a report; this hasn't been officially announced yet.
But if true, it shows the North Koreans are willing to step even closer to the brink than I thought.
And by the way - any of you still think missile defense is a bad idea?
The rest of the Friday Furo Questus can be found at The Wasatch Front.