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South Korea Develops Cruise Missile

File photo: Tomahawk missile.
by Jong-Heon Lee
UPI Correspondent
Seoul (UPI) Sep 21, 2006
South Korea has developed a Tomahawk-style cruise missile capable of reaching most of North Korea to cope with mounting missile threats from its communist neighbor. According to JoongAng Ilbo, Seoul's major newspaper, Thursday, South Korea's first cruise missile has been developed jointly by the country's military and the state-run Agency for Defense Development.

"We have developed a cruise missile capable of precisely destroying major military targets, such as missile batteries, in North Korea's rear area," the daily said, citing an unidentified senior military official.

The cruise missile, which has a range of 313 miles, is capable of hitting almost all of North Korea's missile sites, including a facility in Musudan-ri on the country's remote northeast coast from where a set of missiles was fired in July, including a long-range Taepodong-2.

The cruise missile, using its own navigation system which recognizes features on the ground to find a target, can fly as low as 164 to 328 feet to avoid radar detection.

The country will produce more cruise missiles, to be named "Cheon Ryong (Sky Dragon)," within a year or two, and deploy them at guided missile headquarters and aboard 1,800-ton submarines. It is also seeking to develop cruise missiles with a range of 620 miles within five years, the report said.

The South's Defense Acquisition Program Administration and the Agency for Defense Development neither confirmed nor denied the report.

But in July, Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung said South Korea was seeking to develop a cruise missile. "We thought of studying and developing cruise missiles, and the United States is aware of that," he told reporters.

"North Korea has a long-range missile capability, but I believe we are ahead of them in terms of accuracy," Yoon said, noting South Korea has conducted cruise missile tests more than 10 times over the past three years.

The South's cruise missile development comes at a time when military tensions are running high on the Korean peninsula after the North's missile launches in July.

Military experts said the cruise missile would help deter the North's missile threats.

According to Seoul's Defense Ministry, since the late 1970s North Korea has developed the Scud-B and Scud-C missiles, with range of 186 and 311 miles each, and has sold some of them to Middle Eastern countries. The North is believed to have deployed some 500-600 Scud missiles in the country.

The North has also developed the Rodong missile, which has a range of 620 miles. It has some 300 Rodong missiles. In August 1998, the North launched a Taepodong-1 missile with a range of up to 1,550 miles over Japan into the Pacific Ocean.

Ratcheting up tensions, North Korea test-fired a set of missiles on July 5, including a Taepodong-2 missile, which is believed to have a range of up to 4,163 miles, although South Korea and the United States said the missile test failed because of a technical malfunction.

The North's missile launch sparked calls for South Korea to develop missiles with a longer range, capable of hitting the North's military facilities in its northern region.

Under a 1979 accord with Washington, South Korea had been restricted from developing missiles with a range of more than 112 miles. But in 2001 Washington raised the limit to 186 miles and a payload under 1,100 pounds after South Korea complained that its missiles fell far short of reaching most of North Korea.

South Korea is also allowed to develop cruise missiles with no restriction on range as long as its payload is under 1,102 pounds.

North Korea has warned South Korea against attempting to develop such missiles, vowing it would never tolerate the "criminal scheme." "The arms buildup will escalate military confrontation and ignite the train of war on the Korean peninsula," the North said. North and South Korea remain technically at war, since their 1950-53 conflict ended without a peace treaty. Their border is the world's most heavily armed, with nearly 2 million troops deployed on both sides.

Source: United Press International

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