South Korea outlines strategy to destroy North’s defences
Army claims it is developing missile capable of destroying North Korea’s command centre
Fighters on the flight deck of the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier participating in a drill with South Korean warships in the East Sea on Thursday. Photograph: EPA/Yonhap
The South Korean army has said it is developing a missile powerful enough to destroy North Korea’s underground military facilities and command centre, and is confident it can obliterate the North’s frontline artillery systems in the event of a war on the peninsula.
The army made its claims during a regular audit at the country’s national assembly in Seoul, the Yonhap news agency reported, and it comes against a backdrop of heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula as the North continues its nuclear programme and the South stages joint naval drills with the US.
Seoul, with a population of nearly 10 million, is just 56km from the border with North Korea, which has a vast arsenal of artillery pointed at the South Korean capital.
The South Korean military said that to take out the North Korean leadership it was developing a powerful surface-to-surface missile system, called the Hyunmoo-IV.
The report described a three-tier missile strike strategy, starting with a tactical surface-to-surface missile, an “artillery killer” called KTSSM.
Most of the North’s artillery equipment is camouflaged and embedded, and is deployed along the demilitarised zone (DMZ) dividing the two countries, which are still technically at war since the cessation of hostilities in the Korean War in 1953.
“KTSSM-I will strike the enemy’s tunnels with the 170mm self-propelled howitzers and 240mm multiple-rocket launch systems,” the report to the defence committee said.
The second stage would be used to bomb Scud-type missile facilities and 300mm rocket launchers.
The army also plans to fire Hyunmoo-II ballistic missiles, which have a range of up to 800km, to take out the North’s nuclear systems and other weapons of mass destruction. The Hyunmoo-III is a longer-range cruise missile.
South Korea has been working on upgrading its missile capabilities since it reached a deal with the US in September doubling the maximum limits on missile payloads. The army is now allowed to fit warheads weighing more than 500kg on missiles with a range of more than 800km.
South Korea has 655,000 active military personnel, of which 490,000 are in the army. The country also has 3.2 million reservists made up of men who completed their two years of mandatory military service within the previous eight years. North Korea’s military is estimated to have 1.1 million active personnel.
South Korea’s air force said it was setting up an airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) unit in December in line with its plan to acquire Global Hawk drones from the US.
Last month, US president Donald Trump said he would support South Korea’s efforts to boost its weapons systems. The Seoul government has said that it is considering buying nuclear-powered submarines to add to its fleet of 18 diesel-electric subs and balance the North’s fleet of an estimated 70 submarines.
This week the US’s biggest warship in Asia, the USS Ronald Reagan, patrolled the waters east of the Korean peninsula in a show of force. The 100,000 ton nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was taking part in drills with South Korean navy involving 40 warships.