Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin reiterated Wednesday that South Korea would not join the U.S.-led global missile defense system, stressing there was no “appropriate logic” for Seoul to do so.
Speaking at a meeting with reporters, Kim also said Seoul was not considering the purchase of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system and ship-based Standard Missile-3, which are core assets of the multi-layered U.S. missile shield program.
“If we consider various conditions such as the necessity, its adaptability to the peninsular environment and its cost, there is no appropriate logic for South Korea to join the U.S. MD,” he said.
“When an astronomical amount of the taxpayers’ money is needed (to introduce required assets to join the U.S. MD), would people allow for that? South Korea will build a separate missile defense program instead.”
Touching on the need to ensure the interoperability of South Korean and U.S. missile defense programs, Kim said Seoul would benefit from cooperating with the U.S. in terms of intelligence.
“With the interoperability, South Korea can get intelligence on the detection and identification of North Korean missiles. The U.S. can provide intelligence that we can’t get from our equipment,” he said.
Amid persisting reports that Seoul was considering introducing U.S. MD assets such as the SM-3, many analysts here had said that South Korea was close to entering the U.S. system.
Seoul has long denied such reports, expressing reluctance about participation in the U.S. system as it could hurt ties with China, Russia and North Korea, which believe the missile shield could target them in case of a contingency.
Seoul has long planned to establish the independent Korea Air and Missile Defense program ― a low-tier defense system different from the U.S. system consisting of boost, midcourse and terminal phases.
Kim emphasized that the target, scope and capabilities of the KAMD were different from those of the U.S. program.
He portrayed the KAMD as a “low-tier, multiple-interception” program, which destroys incoming missiles at an altitude of 40-50 km with multiple interception missiles.
For the KAMD, Seoul has sought to upgrade the Patriot Advanced Capability-2 missile to the more advanced PAC-3 system, and develop L-SAM and M-SAM surface-to-air missiles.
The PAC-2 missiles with fragmentation-type warheads are less lethal than the PAC-3 which employs “hit-to-kill” technology. Kim said Seoul planned to develop the L-SAM by 2020 and the M-SAM by 2022.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)