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(LEAD) N. Korean missile launches aimed at improving accuracy: official

All Headlines 15:25 July 05, 2009

(ATTN: CHANGES to two the number of suspected Rodong missiles in 9th para; UPDATES with additional details, minor changes)

SEOUL, July 5 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's latest missile launches appear to have been aimed at improving the missiles' accuracy, a South Korean official said Sunday, noting the launches may have provided some results.

"Five out of seven missiles North Korea fired yesterday landed within the same area in the East Sea, about 420 kilometers from the launch site," the official said, asking not to be identified.

"This means the accuracy of North Korean missiles is improving," the official added.

North Korea is said to have about 1,000 ballistic missiles deployed, but the missiles' poor accuracy, measured by circular error probable (CEP), has not allowed precision targeting, at least until now, according to the official.

CEP is the radius of a circle around the target in which 50 percent of warheads aimed at that target will land.

The types of North Korean missiles launched Saturday were earlier said to have a CEP of 1 to 2 kilometers, according to officials at Seoul's defense ministry.

All seven missiles launched Saturday flew about 400 to 500 kilometers, but Seoul earlier said the missiles appeared to be either Scud or Rodong types, which have an estimated range of 1,000 to 1,500 kilometers.

The official said the North appears to have deliberately shortened the flight distance of the missiles to test their accuracy.

"Two of the seven missiles fired had an unusually high velocity that makes us believe they could have been Rodong missiles that had their flight distance shortened," the official said.

The official said it could take several days before the government can confirm the exact type and capability of the missiles.


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