The long-range Taepodong-2 was part of a barrage of seven missiles test-fired by North Korea on Wednesday. They all fell harmlessly into the Sea of Japan, but South Korean officials said the long-range missile had malfunctioned, suggesting it was intended for a more remote target.
Japan's conservative mainstream daily Sankei said that Japanese and U.S. defense officials have concluded that the Taepodong-2 had targeted the U.S. state of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean, after analyzing data collected from their intelligence equipment.
The newspaper quoted unidentified Japanese and U.S. government officials.
The officials decided that the missile was pointed at Hawaii from its angle immediately after launch and the altitude it reached, after analyzing data collected by destroyers equipped with the Aegis radar combat system and RC-135S electronic reconnaissance aircraft, the newspaper said.
It said the findings support a belief North Korean intended the launch as a protest over U.S. economic sanctions against the isolated regime.
But Pentagon officials said Thursday that the brief flight of the Taepodong-2 missile made it difficult to collect useful technical data, including its intended target, its payload and whether it was a two-stage or three-stage missile.
Some U.S. officials were even leaning toward the theory that it was configured as a space launch to deliver a satellite into orbit, rather than as a flight test of a ballistic missile.
Japanese Defense Agency refused to confirm the Sankei report.
The Taepodong-2, North Korea's most advanced missile, has a range of up to 9,300 miles and believed capable of reaching parts of the United States with a light payload.
Hawaii is about 4,350 miles southwest of North Korea.
The daily said it was not immediately known why Hawaii was targeted, but added that analysts believe Pyongyang might have tried to demonstrate that the missile could reach the United States, or because Hawaii is home to the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
North Korea might have avoided targeting Alaska because of a risk that the missile could mistakenly hit a land area in that route, the report said.