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S. Korea has more missiles than N. Korea, plans further beef-up: military officials

Defense 17:06 August 01, 2019

SEOUL, Aug. 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea possesses a larger arsenal of attack and interceptor missiles than North Korea, and has been working to boost such capabilities to better counter evolving threats from the North, military authorities said Thursday.

Concerns have flared anew over North Korea's missile capabilities after it was presumed to have successfully test-fired a new type of short-range ballistic missiles, or its version of Russia's Iskander, codenamed KN-23, last month.

According to the authorities, the South Korean military has roughly three categories of missiles: Hyunmoo, Haeseong and Taurus. Though the exact numbers of those weapons are military secrets, their stockpile outnumbers that of North Korea, officials said.

Major attack missiles it now operates are the Hyunmoo-2 ground-to-ground short-range ballistic missile (SRBM); Haeseong-II cruise missile, and Taurus air-to-ground cruise missile, all of which can reach anywhere in North Korean territory.

Of them, the Hyunmoo-2B ballistic missile could be comparable to the North's Iskander. It flies around 500 kilometers showing a complicated flight route so as to make it hard to intercept, according to the authorities.

"The South Korean military already put the Hyunmoo-2B missile into operation after it was developed in early 2000s, which shows better performance than the North's Iskander," Cheong Seong-chang, a senior researcher at the Sejong Institute said, adding that the North does not have a proper defense system to counter those South Korean missiles.

All ballistic missiles South Korea has are solid-fuel ones, which do not require fueling, and are deemed reliable as they were mostly produced in the 2000s, the authorities said, adding they are also capable of launching precision strikes.

Seen here is South Korea's Hyunmoo-2 ballistic missile. (Yonhap)

As for its missile defense posture, South Korea has formidable capabilities, including Patriot-2 short-range missiles that are set to be upgraded to PAC-3s, which experts say can intercept the North's KN-23 missiles.

In order to better defend the country, the Seoul authorities have also been working to develop upgraded ballistic missiles and to secure state-of-the-art precision guided missile systems, according to the authorities.

North Korean is known to have some 800 ballistic missiles, and has operated around 100 transporter erector launchers (TELs).

But it has just begun developing solid-fuel missiles, and its guidance system shows a relatively low level of accuracy, the authorities noted.

"Rather than overestimating threats by the North's short-range missiles, experts and authorities are required to strive further to help resume nuclear talks between the U.S. and North Korea," Cheong said.

North Korea test-fired what South Korea dubbed a new type of short-range ballistic missiles on July 25 and Wednesday, around two months after it launched similar ones twice in May.

Pyongyang, however, claimed on Thursday that what it fired this week was newly developed large-caliber multiple launch guided rocket system.

This footage, aired by the (North) Korean Central Television on July 26, 2019, shows a short-range missile being fired from a transporter erector launcher on the Hodo Peninsula near the North's eastern coastal town of Wonsan the previous day. South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said on July 31 that North Korea fired multiple unidentified projectiles from the same area earlier in the day, six days after firing two short-range ballistic missiles from the peninsula into the East Sea in its first provocation since May. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

graceoh@yna.co.kr
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