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North Korea tested improved, short-range missile
Updated: 2005-05-04 20:09

The short-range missile North Korea is thought to have tested at the weekend was a Soviet-era rocket modified so it could reach new U.S. bases in South Korea, a South Korean newspaper reported on Wednesday.

A South Korean military official told the daily JoongAng Ilbo that an analysis of Pyongyang's missile test conducted by Seoul indicated the North had upgraded a Soviet FROG-7 rocket by adding a new navigation system and extending its range.

The revamped missile could hit U.S. military bases that are scheduled to be moved south from Seoul to new sites about 75 km south of the South Korean capital by 2008, the official told the paper.

North Korea, which says it has nuclear weapons and has withdrawn from talks to end its nuclear ambitions, already possesses other missiles that can hit all parts of South Korea.

The missile was suspected to have been launched from the North Korean east coast and into the Sea of Japan. It likely had a range of up to 200 km and could be vehicle-based, the official said.

South Korean officials would not comment on the report. A government official said, "Our assessment of the North's missile capability has not changed."

Japanese government sources have said the suspected North Korean missile launch took place on Sunday morning and was likely a land-to-ship or small ballistic missile with a range of about 100 km, Japanese media reported.

The suspected North Korean missile test escalated tensions in the region and came days after Washington indicated the North may be preparing for a nuclear test.

While Seoul and Tokyo played down the significance of the test, saying it was a typical sabre-rattling ploy by the North, the White House called the test a bullying tactic.

It added there was growing evidence the North may be working to arm its longer-range missiles with nuclear warheads.

In February, North Korea said it possessed nuclear weapons and was withdrawing from six-party nuclear talks.

Arms experts said it was not certain if North Korea had the technology to miniaturise nuclear weapons and mount them as warheads on missiles.

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