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Seoul rolls out armament plan to counter N.Korea threats

South Korea on Wednesday announced plans to introduce new weapons to counter nuclear and missile threats from North Korea, including the GPS-guided ground-to-ground munitions, nonlethal bombs to neutralize the electric grid of the enemy and enhanced radar systems to detect incoming attacks.

The military will spend a total of 226.5 trillion won ($196.7 billion) from 2017 to 2021, the primary focus of which will be spending 7.9 trillion won in preparing against potential attacks from Pyongyang, said the Ministry of National Defense.
The annually announced five-year plan was scaled down by 6 trillion won from the 2016-20 version revealed last year, which the officials said was a result of adjusting 83 minor details.

“Our assessment for the period shows that there will be a need to enhance our military capacity in light of the constant threats by North Korea, ongoing military reform and preparation for Seoul’s takeover of wartime operational control from the U.S.,” an official from the ministry said.

The South Korean military is expected to resume OPCON in the mid-2020s, after the country has procured its “Kill Chain” missile defense system and its KAMD air defense system.

The ground-to-ground munitions are directed to strike the North’s recently revealed 300-millimeter caliber multiple rocket launcher. The weapon is presumed to have a maximum range of 200 kilometers, which puts nearly half of South Korea within its range if fired along the inter-Korea border.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last week warned of a strike against Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul.

“North Korea has roughly 300 artillery (units) that threaten the Seoul metropolitan area,” said the ministry officials. The North’s weapons are based in underground mines, which munitions would strike within initial stages of a potential war to eliminate threats to the South’s capital.

The guided weapons have a range of 120 kilometers and are expected to be put to use by 2019. South Korea is currently negotiating with the U.S. for equipping the weapons with U.S. military GPS.

Seoul’s 18.6 trillion won research and development plan includes the “graphite bomb,” also known as a “blackout bomb” or “soft bomb.” Using fine carbon filaments over electrical compounds, the nonlethal weapon is used to disrupt the enemy’s electrical supply.

Its key technologies will be developed by the ministry-affiliated Agency for Defense Development, and will be deployed in the field by the early 2020s, the ministry said.

Another segment of the new plan is introducing the enhanced antiballistic early-warning radar against the North’s submarine-launched ballistic missiles. South Korea believes the North will be able to deploy a SLBM within the next three or four years.

Seoul’s surveillance system currently includes two ground-based Green Pine radar units to detect upon a launch, then track and calculate the estimated location of its fall. Officials said the new radar will work on a similar principal, but have substantially improved functions. 

The military also said it has changed the required operational characteristics for its radars to detect smaller drones from North Korea.

Antiballistic missiles, radar and ground-to-air munitions all were introduced this year in light of the bellicose rhetoric and show of force from the communist country.

Pyongyang on Monday launched a short-range projectile from its coastal city of Wonsan, which flew some 200 kilometers toward the Northeastern Yanggang Province near the country’s border with China. The projectile is presumed to have been fired from the North’s new rocket launcher.

North Korea has been complaining over the annual Seoul-Washington joint military drills.

While it has been almost customary for the hermit kingdom to launch missiles and projectiles into the sea, it is rare for the country to fire its weapons onto land.

Kim Dong-yeop, a researcher from the institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University, said that the launch was simultaneously a test of the rocket launchers’ accuracy and a message that it can target South Korea.

A military official was quoted by local media as saying the North appears to be boasting of its ability to strike Cheong Wa Dae if it wants to, as the distance from Wonsan to Seoul is roughly 200 kilometers.

Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-kyun said the military needs to conduct a detailed analysis of why the projectile was fired in that direction, and whether it was intentional or by accident.

With President Park Geun-hye embarking on a trip to Washington on Wednesday to attend the Nuclear Security Summit, Defense Minister Han Min-koo instructed the military to be on constant alert against North Korea in case of further provocations.

By Yoon Min-sik (