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Military blames radar blind spot for inaccurate assessment of N.K. missiles

All News 14:52 April 29, 2021

SEOUL, April 29 (Yonhap) -- The military initially failed to accurately determine how far North Korea flew ballistic missiles last month because of "blind spot" areas that radars in South Korea have due to the Earth's roundness, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said Thursday.

Defense Minister Suh Wook said on Wednesday that Pyongyang's ballistic missiles fired on March 25 flew around 600 kilometers after conducting a pull-up maneuver, while the JCS said on the day of testing that they were presumed to have traveled around 450 km.

The revision sparked concerns over the military's missile detection ability at a time when North Korea is working to boost missile capabilities.

"When our assets track such projectiles, there could be blind spot areas," JCS spokesperson Col. Kim Jun-rak said, adding that South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities carried out in-depth analysis and made the new estimate.

The creation of such gray areas is due to the Earth's curvature, officials said, noting that the missiles were fired toward the East Sea, not southward, and the pull-up maneuver and the subsequent complicated and flattened flight pattern made them harder to detect.

"If (missiles) fly to our direction, we can detect them all. We have full capabilities and a readiness posture," the official said. "We will continue to beef up our capabilities by integrating and operating our assets more effectively."

Asked about the warhead of the missile, the JCS official said that additional analysis is needed to verify the North's claims. Pyongyang said its "newly developed new-type tactical guided projectile" has a 2.5-ton warhead.

Experts say the projectiles appear to be an upgraded version of is its KN-23 missiles, modeled after Russia's Iskander mobile ballistic missile.

A new type of tactical guided missile is launched from the North Korean town of Hamju, South Hamgyong Province, on March 25, 2021, in this photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency. South Korea's military said the previous day that the North fired what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

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