US takes defensive action against North Korean threat

The US has positioned defenses near Hawaii to protect against a possible attack by North Korea.

According to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a ground-based mobile missile system has been sent to the islands and radar has been positioned nearby.

Gates did not specify how seriously he believes the threat from North Korea to be.

At the same time, the US Navy is tracking a North Korean ship suspected of carrying banned nuclear weapons technology, which is a violation of the UN resolution against North Korea.

According to media reports, an unnamed senior US defense official said that the US military is planning to intercept the North Korean vessel as soon as it comes out of hiding off the coast of China.

But experts say that the UN resolution also forbids the US from forcibly boarding a North Korean vessel. So the only way that the US could go aboard is if they receive permission from North Korea itself – and certainly with the way things are today, this is more than unlikely.

The ship is thought to be the Kang Nam, which was previously involved in proliferation activities. It left North Korea on Wednesday.

This is the first suspected "proliferator" that the US has tracked since the UN authorized the world's navies to enforce compliance with a variety of sanctions against North Korea after its recent nuclear test.

Meanwhile, following an announcement by the U.S. military that it is tracking the ship, North Korea has said no one can stop it from carrying out nuclear tests or launching missiles, according to Russia's Itar-Tass news agency.

Pyongyang has further said it would view any attempt to board its ships as an act of war and promised retaliation, if provoked.