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North Korea missiles could hit U.S.

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration has received information that North Korea is developing a long-range ballistic missile designed to reach targets throughout the United States, two government officials said Thursday.

The officials, asking not to be identified, said the potential reach of the missile is 9,400 miles, a distance within the range of any U.S. state or territory.

Until now, the limit of North Korea's missile range was thought by U.S. defense experts to have been Alaska or Hawaii for relatively lighter payloads and the western half of the continental United States for heavier payloads.

The updated model is based on Russia's SSN6, a Soviet-era, submarine-launched ballistic missile. This suggests cooperation, at a minimum, from Russian scientists or other entities, the officials said.

The administration has raised the issue with Russian government officials, who indicated surprise and disapproval of the activity, according to the U.S. officials.

It is not clear whether the analysis of the two officials is widely shared by U.S. government experts.

North Korea's possession of missiles with a range covering almost half the planet could add a troubling dimension to its ongoing conflict with the United States over its nuclear weapons program.

In the absence of a proliferation agreement, the North could cap its missiles with nuclear warheads, leaving U.S. cities vulnerable to attack.

Two weeks ago, officials from North Korea and the United States, along with China, South Korea, Japan and Russia, met in Beijing to discuss ways of surmounting an impasse over the North's weapons programs.