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Ministry reverts to original plan to deploy Cheolmae II interceptors

All Headlines 13:12 August 21, 2018

SEOUL, Aug. 21 (Yonhap) -- The defense ministry on Tuesday returned to its original plan to deploy seven batteries of surface-to-air Cheolmae II missile interceptors after having indicated it could be scaled back.

The ministry said that to build capabilities to counter North Korea's missile threats and strengthen the foundation for the country's defense exports, it decided to stick to the original plan for the deployment expected to occur from 2021-2023.

Last month, Defense Minister Song Young-moo said his ministry is considering carrying out the deployment plan in two phases, while hinting that the second phase could be scrapped should there be a new, better weapons system that can replace the Cheolmae II.

His remarks sparked a flurry of speculation that the minister, a retired admiral, is seeking to reduce the deployment plan in line with ongoing inter-Korean peace efforts or to introduce other missile systems that can be run by the Navy.

"There is a need to deploy the Cheolmae II as originally planned given that the threats from the North's Scud missiles, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, still exist," a ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

"This will also help the South Korean military build its core capabilities to retake wartime operational control (from the United States)," the official added.

The Cheolmae II interceptor is capable of shooting down an incoming target at an altitude of around 20 kilometers. It is seen as the centerpiece of the Korea Air and Missile Defense system that Seoul has been pushing for to counter Pyongyang's nuclear and missile threats.

This file photo taken on March 17, 2016, shows a test firing of the surface-to-air Cheolmae II missile interceptor. (Yonhap)

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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