Tokyo: North Korea may be planning to fire a long-range missile towards Hawaii in early July, a Japanese daily said Thursday citing an analysis by the Japanese defence ministry.
The mass-circulation Yomiuri Shimbun published the analysis after US and South Korean officials said North Korea might be readying another ballistic missile test after three previous launches in 1998, 2006 and this year.
Pyongyang said its latest April 5 launch put a satellite into orbit, while the United States and its allies labelled it a thinly disguised test of a Taepodong-2 missile theoretically capable of reaching Alaska.
Japan’s defence ministry believes that North Korea might now be planning to launch a two-stage or three-stage Taepodong-2 missile towards either Japan’s Okinawa island, Guam or Hawaii, according to the report.
But the ministry said 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, the report said.
If the missile were fired in the direction of Hawaii, the booster could drop in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) well before the missile’s remaining part flies over northern Japan and towards North America.
This would put “enormous military pressure on the United States,” the Yomiuri said, citing the ministry report.
The ministry concluded that it was “most likely” that North Korea’s next ballistic missile test would be directed toward Hawaii, the daily said.
But the ministry said a modified Taepodong-2, with a range of 4,000-6,500 kilometres (2,500-4,000 miles), may not be able to reach Hawaii, which is located more than 7,000 kilometres from the Korean peninsula, the Yomiuri added.
US satellite intelligence has shown that a missile launch pad had been erected at Dongchang-ri on North Korea’s northwest coast, the newspaper said, echoing previous media reports.
The agency said it believes the next launch might possibly take place between July 4 and 8, the report said.
Reasons for the speculation were that the 2006 launch took place on the July 4 US Independence Day holiday, and because the 15th anniversary of North Korean president Kim Il-Sung’s death will fall on July 8.