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N Korea has 1,000 missiles, says defence minister

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SEOUL (AFP): North Korea now has 1,000 missiles of various types, South Korea's defence minister said, a 25-per cent increase on the number estimated two years ago.

Minister Kim Tae-Young also reminded a Seoul forum that the communist state is pushing ahead with a highly enriched uranium programme, a second way to make atomic weapons in addition to its plutonium enrichment.

The 1,000 missiles include Scuds, Rodongs and IRBMs (intermediate-range ballistic missiles), a ministry spokeswoman told AFP on Wednesday. Two years ago, the ministry estimated the total at around 800.

Many of the missiles are deployed near the inter-Korean border and targeted at Seoul or other locations in the South, officials have said.

Yonhap news agency said last week the North has set up a new military division to operate IRBMs with a range of more than 3,000 kilometres (1,860 miles), capable of hitting US bases in Japan and Guam.

It is also known to have test-launched three intercontinental Taepodong missiles, which in theory could reach Alaska.

Kim, reiterating earlier estimates, said the North has produced 30-40 kilograms (66-88 pounds) of weapons-grade plutonium from its plutonium programme. Experts say this is enough to build six or seven bombs.

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