Seoul’s Defense Ministry said Monday that it was reinforcing its missile defense system, while maintaining that further analysis is needed to determine whether the short-range missiles fired by North Korea last week were ballistic missiles.
Since North Korea fired multiple projectiles into the East Sea on May 4 and again Thursday, the South Korean government has delayed revealing the types of projectiles that were launched. The Defense Ministry confirmed that Thursday’s incident involved two short-range missiles, but did not clarify whether they were ballistic or cruise missiles.
As concerns are rising over military capabilities to identify and defend against missile threats, the Defense Ministry said it was constructing a defense system that could effectively deal with any kind of threat.
“(South Korea’s) military has been building a missile defense system for the past 10 years. We will continue to construct a terminal phase intercepting defense system based on the Patriot (missile defense system). And we will continue to reinforce our missile defense capabilities,” Defense Ministry spokeswoman Choi Hyun-soo said during a regular press briefing.
North Korea fired multiple projectiles into the sea May 4, saying this was a “regular strike drill.” The communist regime also said it had fired a new “tactical guided weapon.” On Thursday, two short-range missiles separately flew 270 kilometers and 420 kilometers from Kusong, North Pyongan Province, crossing North Korea and splashing into the East Sea.
Experts say the projectiles fired on both occasions may have been the same and were most likely the North Korean version of the Iskander, a Russian tactical ballistic missile. The solid-fueled missile has two variants, and it is believed that North Korea may have upgraded the export version to increase its range from 280 kilometers to around 500 kilometers -- putting almost all parts of South Korea in its range.
Although a final analysis has yet to confirm whether North Korea launched ballistic missiles, experts say it would be difficult for Seoul to admit that the launches involved such missiles. United Nations Security Council resolutions ban North Korea from launching any type of ballistic missile.
“It could play as a factor that could break all the diplomatic efforts that have been made, aggravating the current stalemate in nuclear talks,” a Defense Ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
President Moon Jae-in warned that the projectile launches only raised tensions and could make negotiations difficult. He also said resuming dialogue with the US is the only practical way to resolve the situation.
The Defense Ministry expressed concerns, but did not say Pyongyang’s military actions violated the Comprehensive Military Agreement signed by the two Koreas on Sept. 19, 2018, calling a halt to all hostile acts.