The South Korean military will establish a new submarine command within the Navy by 2015 as part of its efforts to strengthen its underwater operational capabilities.
In a related development, the navies of South Korea and the U.S. will be holding a five-day joint anti-submarine drill from Feb. 20 in the West Sea.
The exercise is aimed at increasing the allies’ ability to counter North Korean submarines and to familiarize the troops with a variety of drills.
According to reports, the military has allocated 639 million won ($565,000) of its 2012 budget for the plans to establish a submarine command.
Although the Ministry of National Defense had not highlighted the submarine command plan in announcing its budget for the year, the budget allocation was revealed by the National Assembly’s National Defense Committee.
“The fund was included in the budget to cover expenses including base operations with the aim of establishment in 2015,” an anonymous National Assembly official was quoted as saying by local media.
“North Korea has about 70 submarines while our military has only about 10. There is an urgent need for establishing a submarine command as submarines are categorized as strategic weaponry due to their ability to infiltrate without being noticed.”
In addition to the plan for the submarine command, the Navy is currently working on the technologies required to build 3,000-ton submarines, and is waiting for a number of 1,800-ton submarines to be commissioned into its fleet.
The government had first aimed to establish a submarine command by 2012, but the plan was put on hold under the current administration.
In addition, exclusion of the submarine command from the Ministry Defense’s defense reform measures announced last year had led to speculations that related plans had been dropped altogether.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com)