West Sea still vulnerable to N.K. attack

By Park Hyung-ki

S. Korean military build-up lags behind plans while N.K. keeps bolstering arms on its West coast

  • Published : Nov 20, 2012 - 20:29
  • Updated : Jun 1, 2015 - 13:31

South Korea is still facing difficulties on placing key advanced weapons in the northwest islands and boosting its military preparedness against North Korea, defense sources said.

The country has not deployed precise guided missiles, a surveillance airship and an unmanned drone as planned due to technical and political issues since North Korea’s shelling of South Korea’s Yeonpyeongdo in 2010, which claimed the lives of two South Korean marines and two civilians.

Israel’s anti-tank guided missile, named Spike, has had its efficiency questioned given that it is still under testing and not suitable to target North Korean hidden artillery.
A soldier looks at pictures of soldiers killed during North Korea’s artillery attack on Yeonpyeongdo on Nov. 23, 2010, in an exhibition to mark its second anniversary, at Gimpo Airport, Tuesday. (Yonhap News)

South Korea and its U.S. ally have also not yet drawn up a joint operational plan against North Korea’s provocations in the West Sea, as planned last year.

This Friday marks the second anniversary of the communist state’s artillery attack that was intended to display its military might ahead of a leadership change to Kim Jong-un, who took control of North Korea in December 2011.

Since the shelling on the island, North Korea has continued to increase its military capability.

The North has established a base with a fleet of hovercraft in Goampo, South Hwanghae Province, that can reach the shores of South Korea’s northwest islands including Baekryeong, near the inter-Korean de facto sea border of the Northern Limit Line, within 20 minutes.

North Korea also has some 70 attack helicopters that are readily deployable, while boosting its invasion and submarine training against South Korea’s northwest region, various sources told the media.

South Korea, meanwhile, has AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters to counter North Korean hovercraft, but observers said AH-1s have limited operational capability at night.

Additional multiple-rocket launchers, artillery-hunting radars, artillery locators and K-9 howitzers have been stationed in the northwest where there are some 1,000 South Korean troops.

Officials said no new weapons have been positioned in the past year.

South Korea’s Yeonpyeong, just south of the NLL, had been vulnerable to North Korea over the years as it had defective military equipment.

Its K-9 howitzers malfunctioned during its retaliation against North Korean shelling; likewise, its radar system locating the North’s artillery did not provide much technical support to the troops.

K-9s had been South Korea’s main line of defense against North Korea in the northwest islands with very limited resources. It takes more than two hours for South Korean troops to arrive in the northwest islands from Incheon via air transport.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff plans to hold a simulated exercise and field training this Friday.

By Park Hyong-ki (

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