North Korea may be able to deploy its new multiple rocket launchers within this year after test-firing short range missiles over the weekend, a senior Seoul official said Thursday.
North Korea fired six rounds of short-range rockets from its east coast for three days from Saturday, putting a damper on hopes for inter-Korean talks to ease tensions after months of bellicose rhetoric from Pyongyang.
With analysis currently underway, the transporter-erector-launchers (TEL) for the multiple rocket launchers were identified as having four launch tubes, an intelligence official said, asking for anonymity.
“We are looking into whether the North made the four launch tubes for this test-firing,” he said.
Of the six rounds of rockets, which are estimated to have been 4-5 meters long, four flew about 150 kilometers, and two flew about 130km, the official said, adding all launchers have been removed from the North’s east coast.
Until now, the North was believed to have three kinds of multiple rocket launchers ― 107mm, 122mm and 240mm with a maximum range of about 60km.
If deployed, the new launchers could threaten the entire Seoul metropolitan area, which is less than 50km from the border, and reach U.S. bases in Gyeonggi Province.
Military officials in Seoul consider the new rocket launchers as a new security threat as they are difficult to detect until they are fired.
In response to the growing missile and rocket threat from the North, South Korea is currently developing a new 230mm multiple rocket launch system (MLRS) with a range of 80km to replace its 130 MLRS fleet with the goal of completing the upgrade by later this year.
Meanwhile, the North recently removed two Musudan intermediate missiles and seven Scud and Nodong missiles, which had been placed on its east coast in early April, according to military officials.
“Two Musudan missiles are believed to have been transported to Pyongyang,” a senior military official said. “Mobile launchers for the rest of seven missiles are believed to have returned to their nearby military units.” (Yonhap News)