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Friday, September 4, 1998 Published at 06:03 GMT 07:03 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

North Korea wants dollars for missiles

The demilitarised zone remains popular with tourists

North Korean and American officials have held new talks in New York after an interruption following North Korea's test launch of a ballistic missile over Japanese territory.

The meeting comes amid rising tension in north-east Asia, with Japan putting its warships and military aircraft on alert and warning that North Korea may be preparing to launch a second missile.

South Korea alleges that North Korea is demanding money from Washington in return for ending its export of missiles.

[ image: Kim Jong Il is expected to be named North Korean president imminently]
Kim Jong Il is expected to be named North Korean president imminently
The BBC correspondent in Seoul, Andrew Wood, says North Korea is short of foreign currency. Exporting missiles is a valuable source of income.

The country is suffering from famine and needs foreign food aid to feed its people. Our correspondent say it has In the past won a lot of concessions from the international community by acting in a threatening and unpredictable way.

The South Koreans believe the North has sold missiles mainly to Middle Eastern countries. More recently it has stopped selling complete missiles but instead has sent kits of parts.

[ image: North Korean missile units parade in Pyonyang in 1992]
North Korean missile units parade in Pyonyang in 1992
The Unification Ministry in Seoul says customers include Iran and the United Arab Emirates. It said North Korea has repeated its offer to abandon its missile programme if it were compensated for loss of export earnings.

But it would not confirm reports that the figure the North is asking for at talks in New York is a billion dollars.

North Korea's range of weapons include copies of Russian Scud missiles, believed to be capable of carrying chemical and biological payloads, as well as more advanced weapons which the North Koreans have developed themselves which could possibly carry nuclear warheads.

The Taepo-dong ballistic missile which was fired on Monday was a medium-range, two-stage device. The first part fell into the sea between Japan, Russia and North Korea but the cone flew over Japan and landed in the Pacific Ocean.

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