A Japanese newspaper said North Korea is preparing to launch a long-range ballistic missile toward the Pacific U.S. state of Hawaii in early July.
The Daily Yomiuri said Japan's Defense Ministry believes a Taepodong-2 missile or an upgraded version was delivered to the northwest Tongchang-ri launch site from a plant near Pyongyang on May 30. It quoted the ministry as saying the missile could be launched between July 4 and 8. But it said defense officials do not believe the missile can reach the Hawaiian islands.
A separate report by the International Crisis Group warned that North Korea's army has between 2,500 and 5,000 tons of chemical weapons, including mustard gas, sarin and other deadly agents.
Daniel Pinkston, the group's representative in Seoul, said Thursday that in conventional terms North Korea is weak and could resort to chemical weapons if a conflict with the South escalates.
North Korea has threatened to launch a long-range missile in retaliation for new sanctions passed by the United Nations Security Council following its May 25 nuclear test, as well as a series of missile launches.
Pyongyang has also vowed to restart its nuclear weapons program.
In Tokyo Thursday, Philippine President Gloria Arroyo and Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso pledged in a joint statement to seek an end to North Korea's nuclear programs.
In Moscow, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao expressed "serious concern" about the situation in North Korea and called for the "swiftest possible resumption" of six-nation disarmament talks. The negotiations are aimed at giving Pyongyang fuel and other benefits in return for dismantling its nuclear weapons program.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has said his government will not allow Pyongyang to possess nuclear weapons under any circumstances.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.