By Kim Eun-jung
SEOUL, March 5 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is estimated to have about 100 KN-02 missiles with an extended range of up to 170 kilometers, as the country has improved engine performance through various test firings, a senior military source said Wednesday.
According to the military assessment on the North's missile program, the KN-02 can fly farther than the previously expected 120 km, adding that 30 transporter erector launchers (TEL) have been deployed to fire the missiles.
"North Korea is estimated to have about 100 KN-02 missiles, considering the number of launchers," the source said, asking for anonymity. "KN-02 uses a solid fuel system, which saves time on firing and reloading."
The KN-02 uses a solid fuel that is different from the liquid fuels used in most of North Korea's other missiles, equipped with the geographical positioning system for improved guidance.
Experts say they pose a greater risk as the short-range missiles can reach maximum speed three or four minutes after firing, and they are reloadable in 15 minutes. The KN-02 makes it harder to detect early signs of a launch as the missile is not controlled by a radar system, according to military officials.
Concerns have risen recently as the communist state has fired several Scud missiles or rockets from its east coast over the last week in a move seen as a show of force against the ongoing joint drills by South Korea and the United States.
Seoul and Washington have stepped up their surveillance status to closely monitor additional signs of provocations as the North has been controlling fishing boats in both the East and Yellow Sea border regions, something it has done in the past before missile launches.
During last year's joint drills, Pyongyang fired off several missiles and rockets from its east coast and threatened to strike South Korea and the U.S. mainland with its nuclear weapons, sharply stoking tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea is believed to have more than 1,000 missiles of varying types, with most only able to target South Korea and some capable of hitting some Japanese and U.S. military bases.
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