Japan warns that North Korea may fire missile at U.S. on Independence Day
(DailyMail/UK) – 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.
By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 12:19 PM on 19th June 2009
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.
It was announced today that the U.S. has deployed anti-missile defences around Hawaii in response to the threat.
North Korea test-fired a similar long-range missile on July 4 three years ago, but it failed seconds after liftoff.
U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates said the additional defences around Hawaii consist of a ground-based mobile missile system and a radar system nearby.
Together they could shoot an incoming missile in mid air.
‘Without telegraphing what we will do, I would just say… we are in a good position, should it become necessary, to protect Americans and American territory,’ Gates said today.
A new missile launch – though not expected to reach U.S. territory – would be a brazen slap in the face of the international community, which punished North Korea with new U.N. sanctions for conducting a second nuclear test on May 25 in defiance of a U.N. ban.
North Korea spurned the U.N. Security Council resolution with threats of war and pledges to expand its nuclear bomb-making program.
The Security Council resolution calls on all 192 U.N. member states to inspect vessels on the high seas – with the owner country’s approval – if they believe the cargo contains banned weapons.
In what would be the first test case for the sanctions, the U.S. military has begun tracking a North Korean-flagged ship, Kang Nam, which left a port in North Korea on Wednesday, two U.S. officials said.
The ship, which may be carrying illicit weapons, was in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of China on today, the officials said on condition of anonymity because they were discussing intelligence.
It was uncertain what the Kang Nam was carrying, but it has been involved in weapons proliferation before, one of the officials said.
Details of the missile 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.
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.
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 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.