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(Yonhap Interview) S. Korea to boost its missile defense program: DAPA chief

All News 11:26 January 18, 2016

SEOUL, Jan. 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's arms procurement agency will concentrate efforts on upgrading the country's Patriot missiles and developing long-range ground-to-air missiles to counter North Korea's threats, its chief said Monday.

North Korea declared that it successfully conducted a hydrogen bomb test on Jan. 6. The outside world suspects the test might have been based on a conventional atomic bomb, or a boosted fission bomb at best, but nevertheless the recent test showed the communist country is advancing its nuclear weapons program.

The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) has already started a review of South Korea's ambitious project to develop an indigenous missile defense system, called Kill Chain, DAPA Minister Chang Myoung-jin said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency.

"I am paying special attention to the overall components of Kill Chain, including its core weapon system as well as human resources to be in charge of operating them and their education and training," the minister said.

Change said he "will especially focus on upgrading the local units of Patriot missiles and developing long-range surface-to-air missiles," stressing the importance of beefing up capabilities to deal with the North's "asymmetric" weapons.

Amid North Korea's growing nuclear and missile threats, South Korea is working to develop a set of home-grown missile defense systems by 2023 -- Kill Chain and Korean Air and Missile Defense -- which could detect and intercept missiles coming from North Korea.

DAPA is reportedly pushing to install the defense systems ahead of the original schedule in the wake of the North's fourth nuclear test.

Chang said negotiations are well underway between Seoul and Washington over DAPA's deal to secure 21 fighter jet technologies from U.S.-based defense giant Lockheed Martin.

Out of the total of 25 technologies South Korea had initially sought from Lockheed Martin for its indigenous combat jet project, KF-X, the U.S. refused to issue an export license on four key technologies.

The two sides are currently in negotiations over the rest of the 21 technologies.

"As the technology transfer discussion gains traction down the road, the discussion will continue for two to three years to come," the minister said. "If anything goes astray, I will come forward myself and make a breakthrough."

Marking the 10th anniversary of DAPA's founding, Chang also vowed to revamp his defense procurement agency which has frequently been engulfed in money-for-influence charges.

Even amid the unfavorable circumstance, DAPA secured orders worth USD 3.49 billion won last year, recording the third straight year of sales over US$3 billion, he added.

pbr@yna.co.kr
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