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N. Korea may fire at isles


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POSTED: Thursday, June 18, 2009

TOKYO » North Korea may fire a long-range ballistic missile toward Hawaii early next month, a Japanese newspaper said today, amid escalating tensions between the communist country and the United States over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Les' Melnyk said Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has confirmed seeing reports of North Korea's missile preparation but has not discussed the direction of the missiles.

“;Beyond that we're not going to comment,”; Melnyk said last night.

The missile, believed to be a long-range Taepodong-2, would be launched from North Korea's Dongchang-ni site on the northwestern coast, said Yomiuri, Japan's top-selling newspaper. It cited an analysis by the Japanese Defense Ministry and intelligence gathered by U.S. reconnaissance satellites.

While the Yomiuri speculated the Taepodong-2 could fly over Japan and toward Hawaii, it said the missile would not be able to hit the main Hawaiian islands, which lie about 4,500 miles from North Korea.

The missile launch could come between July 4 and 8, the paper said. It noted North Korea had fired the Taepodong-2 missile on July 4, 2006. Also July 8 is the anniversary of the 1994 death of North Korea founder Kim Il Sung.

A spokesman for the Japanese Defense Ministry declined to comment on the report. South Korean defense officials said they could not confirm it.

Hawaii Department of Defense spokesman Lt. Col. Charles Anthony and a U.S. Pacific Command official declined comment. Gov. Linda Lingle was unavailable for comment.

In Washington on Tuesday, Gen. 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 West Coast of the United States.

 

Star-Bulletin writer Gary Kubota contributed to this report.