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Seoul to step up N.K. monitoring

Report says combat readiness of rapid response forces is poor

South Korea will deploy high-tech military monitoring equipment worth 90.3 billion won ($78.7 million) to the western border islands by next year to keep closer tabs on North Korean movements, a Defense Ministry report said Tuesday.

According to the report submitted to Rep. Kim Jang-soo of the Grand National Party, the military plans to deploy six monitoring assets including a tactical airship, monitoring tools for daytime and nighttime frontline observations and an unmanned aerial vehicle.

These pieces of monitoring equipment will be deployed along with the Hostile Artillery Locating System, the report said. The deployment is expected to enable the South Korean military to take a closer look at North Korean coastal artillery, missile bases and troop movements.

The tactical airship ― equipped with a high-performance optical camera, a radar system and other information-gathering tools ― will monitor North Korean military positions from about 10 kilometers above ground.

An upgraded UAV will also be positioned onto a naval intelligence vessel operating off Bangnyeong and Yeonpyeong Islands.

Seoul has been seeking to bolster its monitoring and reconnaissance capabilities in the wake of a series of North Korean provocations including November’s artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island that killed two marines and two civilians.

A separate report said that key South Korean military facilities are not equipped with proper tools to defend themselves from possible electronic attacks from North Korea.

The report submitted to GNP Rep. Chung Mi-kyung prompted calls for effective measures to protect them, at a time when the reclusive North Korea is focusing on developing electronic warfare strategies.

The state-run Agency for Defense Development and the Defense Acquisition Program Administration compiled the report, in which they said South Korea has no technology to fend off electromagnetic pulse bomb attacks.

Although work has recently been done to better safeguard the Defense Ministry building and the new building now under construction for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, they can deal only with electromagnetic interference, the reports said.

The North is thought to be seeking to develop EMP bombs that can effectively paralyze communication tools and other electronic systems, and seriously undermine enemy forces’ basic warfare capabilities.

Well aware that it cannot win in conventional warfare with its outdated weaponry, the impoverished North has been striving to enhance electronic warfare capabilities that can cause massive damage to its enemies at low costs.

ADD and DAPA said that they plan to develop core technologies to respond to possible EMP attacks in steps between 2012 and 2015.

In another report, it was revealed that the readiness posture of the military’s “rapid-response combat-ready” forces is poor.

The report that inspected four Army and one Air Force units last year showed that they are not capable of immediately converting to combat mode.

It said that situational reports were not immediately disseminated to them, and that the capability of the platoon leaders to lead their troops turned out to be inadequate.

The rapid response forces are to carry certain ammunitions and combat items at all times, and should remain fully ready to be positioned in the battle ground and join military operations at any time.

The Defense Ministry submitted the report to Rep. Shin Hak-yong of the main opposition Democratic Party.

By Song Sang-ho (