The South Korean military plans to deploy ship-to-surface cruise missiles with a range of more than 500 kilometers this year on 4,500-ton KDX-II class destroyers operating in the West Sea, a military source said Tuesday.
The indigenous Cheonryong missile is capable of attacking key strategic ground targets in North Korea, including its military command posts and surface-to-ship missile bases on the western coastal regions.
“The surface-to-ship missiles North Korea has deployed along its western coast pose a threat to our naval warships. To prepare against additional provocations, (the military) is seeking the early deployment of the missiles on our destroyers,” said the source on condition of anonymity.
The Ministry of National Defense refuses to confirm the deployment plan, citing security reasons.
The plan for the operational deployment of the new missiles came after the communist North bombarded the South Korean northwestern frontline island of Yeonpyeong last November, killing two marines and two civilians.
During the artillery attack, South Korea deployed fighter jets equipped with precision-guided missiles to the scene. With the planned deployment of the new missiles, however, the South will be able to launch a precision strike from its warships in case of another provocation from the North.
It is known that the South has developed Hyunmoo-III surface-to-surface cruise missiles with a range of 500-1,500 kilometers and deployed some of them in key military units. However, it was not known until recently that the military has developed such ship-to-surface strategic missiles.
Unlike land-based missiles, ship-to-surface missiles can target a wider range of objects due to high mobility. The missiles are also known to be deployable on the 3,000-ton submarines the South has reportedly been developing.
The military is expected to deploy the new cruise missiles on 7,600-ton Aegis-equipped warships as well as 4,500-ton KDX-II warships which are equipped with Korean Vertical Launching Systems.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)