SEOUL // North Korea may launch a long-range ballistic missile toward Hawaii in early July, a Japanese news report said today, as Russia and China urged the regime to return to international disarmament talks on its rogue nuclear programme. 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 the Yomiuri daily, Japan's top-selling newspaper. It cited an analysis by the Japanese Defence Ministry and intelligence gathered by US 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 would not be able to hit Hawaii's main islands, which are about 7,200km from the Korean peninsula.
A spokesman for the Japanese Defence Ministry declined to comment on the report. South Korea's Defence 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 spiked since the North conducted its second nuclear test on May 25 in defiance of repeated international warnings. The regime declared on Saturday it would bolster its nuclear programmes and threatened war in protest of UN sanctions taken for the nuclear test.