North Korea may launch a long-range ballistic missile towards Hawaii on American Independence Day, according to Japanese intelligence officials.
The missile, believed to be a Taepodong-2 with a range of up to 4,000 miles, would be launched in early July from the Dongchang-ni site on the north-western coast of the secretive country.
Intelligence analysts do not believe the device would be capable of hitting Hawaii's main islands, which are 4,500 miles from North Korea.
Details of the launch came from the Japan's best-selling newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun.
Both Japanese intelligence and U.S. reconnaissance satellites have collated information pointing to the launch, according to the report.
This is North Korea's Taepodong-2 missile which has a range of 4,000 miles. Intelligence analysts do not believe it would be capable of hitting Hawaii which is 4,500 miles away
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il inspecting the command of the 7th Infantry Division of the North Korean Peoples Army
It is understood the communist state is likely to fire the missile between July 4 and 8. A launch on July 4 would coincide with Independence Day in the States.It would also be the 15th anniversary of North Korean president Kim Il-Sung's death.
The Japanese newspaper also noted that North Korea had fired its first Taepodong-2 missile on July 4, 2006.
Officials had initially believed that North Korea might attempt to launch a similar device towards either Japan's Okinawa island, Guam or Hawaii.
But the ministry concluded launches toward Okinawa or Guam were 'extremely unlikely' because the first-stage booster could drop into waters off China, agitating Beijing, or hit western Japanese territory.
If the missile were fired in the direction of Hawaii, the booster could drop in the Sea of Japan.
News of the launch would put 'enormous military pressure on the United States,' the Yomiuri said, citing the ministry report.
A missile fired from North Korea would have to travel 4,500 miles before it reached the U.S. state of Hawaii
A spokesman for the Japanese Defense Ministry declined to comment on the report.
South Korea's Defense Ministry and the National Intelligence Service - the country's main spy agency - said they could not confirm it.
Tension on the divided Korean peninsula has risen markedly since the North, led by Kim Jong-il, conducted two nuclear tests this year in defiance of repeated international warnings
The first rocket, fired in April, was widely seen as a disguised long-range missile test. A second launch came on May 25.
U.S. satellite intelligence has shown that a missile launch pad had been erected at Dongchang-ri on North Korea's north-west coast.
General James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it would take at least three to five years for North Korea to pose a real threat to the U.S. west coast.
The UN Security Council last week authorised member states to inspect North Korean sea, air and land cargo, requiring them to seize and destroy goods shipped that violate the sanctions against arms export.
On Saturday, in response to this declaration Pyongyang said it would bolster its nuclear programs and threatened war.
Growing tensions come as arms-watchdog the International Crisis Group (ICG) claimed North Korea has several thousand tonnes of chemical weapons it could mount on missiles.
The report from the non-government organisation said they believed the North's army have about 2,500 to 5,000 tonnes of chemical weapons which include mustard gas, sarin and other deadly nerve agents.
ICG also also warned South Korea may become a target.
'If there is an escalation of conflict and if military hostilities break out, there is a risk that they could be used. In conventional terms, North Korea is weak and they feel they might have to resort to using those,' said Daniel Pinkston, the ICG's representative in Seoul.
The North has been working on chemical weapons for decades and can deliver them through long-range artillery directed on Seoul which is home to about half of South Korea's 49 million people and via missiles that could hit all of the country.
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