SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - The United States has deployed
anti-missile defenses around Hawaii amid reports that North Korea
may fire its most advanced ballistic missile toward the U.S.
islands early next month, adding to already high tensions in the
A report in a Japanese newspaper said Pyongyang might test-fire
its Taepodong-2 toward Hawaii around the U.S. holiday of
Independence Day. North Korea test-fired a similar long-range
missile on July 4 three years ago, but it failed seconds after
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the additional defenses
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 told reporters in
Washington on Thursday.
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.
North Korea spurned the U.N. Security Council resolution with
threats of war and pledges to expand its nuclear bomb-making
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
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
The ship, which may be carrying illicit weapons, was in the
Pacific Ocean off the coast of China on Thursday, the officials
said on condition of anonymity because they were discussing
It was uncertain what the Kang Nam was carrying, but it has been
involved in weapons proliferation before, one of the officials
The missile now being readied in the North is believed to be a
Taepodong-2 with a range of up to 4,000 miles (6,500 kilometers),
and would be launched from North Korea's Tongchang-ri site on the
northwestern coast sometime around July 4, the Yomiuri newspaper
It cited an analysis by Japan's Defense Ministry and
intelligence gathered by U.S. reconnaissance satellites.
It speculated the missile could fly over Japan and toward
Hawaii, but would not be able to hit Hawaii's main islands, which
are about 4,500 miles (7,200 kilometers) from the Korean peninsula.
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.
Pyongyang's missile and nuclear programs are centerpieces of the
regime's catalog of weapons of mass destruction.
But the impoverished nation, which has put most of its scarce
resources into boosting its military capabilities under its
"army-first" policy, also has a large chemical arsenal, as well
as capabilities to produce biological weapons.
On Thursday, an international security think tank warned that
North Korea's chemical weapons are no less serious a threat to the
region than its nuclear arsenal.
The independent International Crisis Group said the North 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 and are "sufficient to inflict massive civilian
casualties on South Korea."
"If progress is made on rolling back Pyongyang's nuclear
ambitions, there could be opportunities to construct a cooperative
diplomatic solution for chemical weapons and the suspected
biological weapons program," the think tank said in a report.
It also called on the U.S. to engage the North in dialogue to
defuse the nuclear crisis, saying "diplomacy is the least bad
option." It said Washington should be prepared to send a
high-level special envoy to Pyongyang to resolve the tension.