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Report: DPRK may launch missile toward US

THE Democratic People's Republic of Korea may launch a long-range ballistic missile toward Hawaii in early July, a Japanese news report said yesterday.

The missile, believed to be a Taepodong-2 with a range of up to 6,500 kilometers, would be launched from North Korea's Dongchang-ni site on the northwestern coast, said the Yomiuri daily, Japan's top-selling newspaper. It cited an analysis by the Japanese Defense Ministry and intelligence gathered by United States reconnaissance satellites.

The missile launch could come between July 4 and 8, the paper said.

While the newspaper speculated the Taepodong-2 could fly over Japan and toward Hawaii, it said the missile could not hit Hawaii's main islands, which are about 7,200 kilometers from the Korean Peninsula.

Tension on the divided Korean Peninsula has spiked since North Korea conducted its second nuclear test on May 25. The country declared last Saturday it would bolster its nuclear programs and threatened war in protest of United Nations sanctions taken for the nuclear test.

US officials have said North Korea has been preparing to fire a long-range missile capable of striking the western US. In Washington on Tuesday, 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 US west coast.

US President Barack Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak met in Washington on Tuesday for a landmark summit in which they agreed to build a regional and global "strategic alliance" to persuade North Korea to dismantle all its nuclear weapons. Obama declared North Korea a "grave threat" to the world and pledged that the new UN sanctions will be aggressively enforced.

The independent International Crisis Group think tank, meanwhile, said North Korea's massive stockpile of chemical weapons is no less serious a threat to the region than its nuclear arsenal.

It said North Korea is believed to have between 2,500 and 5,000 tons of chemical weapons, including mustard gas, phosgene, blood agents and sarin. These weapons can be delivered with ballistic missiles and long-range artillery.



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