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. South Korea revivies military project to buy Patriot missiles
SEOUL (AFP) Jul 05, 2005
South Korea has revived a project to buy US Patriot missiles aimed at intercepting North Korean missiles and aircraft, military officials said Tuesday.

From next year, South Korea will replace its ageing ground-to-air Nike missiles, introduced 40 years ago, with Patriot missiles, the defence ministry said.

A decision on whether to buy new missiles directly from the United States or second-hand ones from Germany has yet to be taken, it added.

"We may buy US-made Patriot missiles from Germany," a ministry official said.

The South Korean military had planned to buy 48 Patriot missiles from the United States in 2000, but the plan was scrapped because of a dispute over the cost.

The US military deployed new Patriot batteries in South Korea last year to defend its 32,500 troops stationed in the country.

Military experts say North Korea's missile development poses a major threat to regional security on top of its nuclear ambitions.

North Korea has already deployed short range Scuds and Rodongs with a range of 1,300 kilometres (780 miles), while actively developing longer-range Taepodong missiles with a range of up to 6,000 kilometres.

Washington has denounced Pyongyang as a leading global proliferator of missiles and missile technology. The cash-strapped communist state has refused to stop missile exports, a major source of hard currency earnings.

Pyongyang stunned the world in 1998 by test-launching over Japan a Taepodong-1 missile with a range of up to 2,000 kilometres.

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