[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/06/19/us.nkorea/art.kang.nam.afp.gi.jpg caption="This North Korean ship is known for having carried 'proliferation materials,' a senior U.S. official says."]
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the United States could defend itself should North Korea launch a missile toward Hawaii and that U.S. officials are carefully monitoring the reclusive nation's military.
With missile interceptors and radar equipment deployed in and near Hawaii, "we are in a good position should it become necessary to protect American territory," Gates said Thursday.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military is tracking a North Korean ship in the Pacific that is believed to be carrying illicit weapons or technology, a senior U.S. official said Thursday.
While the United States does not know what is on the ship, the Kang Nam is a "repeat offender," known for having carried "proliferation materials," one senior defense official said.
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