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North Korea transfers anti-aircraft missiles closer to Seoul


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North Korea has shifted long-range anti-aircraft missiles near the border with South Korea as tensions continued to rise over the sinking of one of Seoul's warships, according to reports here.



The North has moved some SA-5 missiles from the southwestern province of Hwanghae to areas near the border, where they can pose a threat to South Korean jet fighters, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported, citing a military source in Seoul.


"Our fighter jets' activity is therefore somewhat restricted. For example, our fighters have to avoid SA-5 tracer radar detection for fear of an attack when it is activated," the source was quoted as saying.


The SA-5 has the longest range of anti-aircraft missiles deployed warfare-ready in the world. With a range of 250 kilometers (150 miles), the missiles pose a threat to South Korean aircraft operating far south of Seoul, the paper said.


"The move seems to be aimed at preventing South Korean fighters from launching precision strikes on strategic targets in the North in an emergency," it said, noting the missiles were repositioned around the time when a South Korean warship was sunk in March by the North's torpedo attack.


The North reportedly purchased about 350 SA-5 missiles and 20 launch pads from the Soviet Union in the late 1980s.


The communist country fired 110 artillery rounds on Aug. 9 at waters near a disputed western sea border where the Cheonan warship was exploded.


About 10 shells landed near the South Korean border island of Byeongryeong, followed by an additional 100 rounds falling near another border island, Yeonpyeong, according the Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff.


The firing came just minutes after the South Korean military concluded five days of large-scale naval drills staged in response to the sinking of the warship that left 46 sailors dead.


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