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N. Korea boosts anti-aircraft missiles to defend Pyongyang: source

All Headlines 10:56 March 07, 2012

SEOUL, March 7 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has increased its number of long-range anti-aircraft missiles aimed at targeting high-altitude threats over the capital Pyongyang over the past decade, a South Korean military source said Wednesday.

The number of SA-5 surface-to-air missiles with a range of 260-300 kilometers deployed near Pyongyang has risen from two in 2000 to 40 in 2010, the source said on condition of anonymity.

The Soviet-designed SA-5 missiles are believed to be the North's most capable air defense against enemy planes flying over Pyongyang.

During the same period, the number of SA-3 missiles, which offer short-range defense against low-flying aircraft, jumped to some 140 from seven, the source said.

North Korea had deployed some 180 SA-2 missiles, with a range of 48km, by 2010, compared with 45 in 2010, the source said.

The two Koreas are still technically at war since the 1950-1953 Korean conflict ended in a fragile cease-fire, not a peace treaty.

Inter-Korean tensions remain high following two deadly military attacks by the North in 2010 that killed a total of 50 South Koreans, mostly soldiers.

As North Korea boosts its anti-aircraft missile defenses, it will partly affect a plan by South Korea to purchase advanced combat fighters, the source said.

"In case of contingency, we could hit deep into the enemy territory only if we neutralize the North's surface-to-air missiles, radar systems and long-range rocket launchers," the source said.

"Our top priority is to introduce combat capabilities to secure command of the air."

South Korea plans to select a winning bidder in October to provide a fleet of advanced fighter jets with stealth capability.

Lockheed Martin's F-35, Boeing's F-15 Silent Eagle and the Eurofighter Typhoon made by a European consortium are likely to compete for the tender, which is valued at 10 trillion won (US$8.9 billion).

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