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Rocket launchers deployed on border islands: source

The South Korean military has deployed a set of multiple launch rocket systems on two of the northwestern border islands in efforts to prepare for North Korean provocations, a government source said Monday.

The source said some 10 systems have been sent to Bangnyeong and Yeonpyeong Islands near the western maritime border, where North Korean military attacks have persisted.

“The rocket systems have been deployed to Bangnyeong and Yeonpyeong Islands to prepare against North Korean provocations. It is the first time for multiple launch rocket systems to be deployed to the frontline islands on a permanent basis,” the source said on condition of anonymity.

After the North launched an artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island last November, killing four South Koreans including two civilians, the South Korean military deployed U.S.-made multiple launch rocket systems on the island.

But they were withdrawn in December as the deployment was a temporary measure to ward off additional attacks from the belligerent state.

Officials at the Ministry of National Defense refused to confirm the deployment of the new, Korean-developed rocket systems, named “K-136 Guryong,” citing security reasons.

Developed by the Agency for Defense Development to counter threats from North Korea’s 122 mm multiple launch rocket systems, the system is a formidable weapon that carries 36 130-mm rocket launchers on a five-ton military truck. It has a range of 23-36 kilometers.

The South Korean military plans to have the Marine Corps run the systems, which are currently under the control of the Army, according to the source.

The 2,700-strong Marine Corps has played a key role in keeping the northwestern islands under the control of South Korea. Some 5,200 marine troops are currently stationed on the five border islands.

Since North Korea’s deadly attack on Yeonpyeong Island, the South Korean military has been trying to bolster its capabilities to safeguard the border islands in the West Sea, which are less than 20 kilometers away from the North’s west coast.

As part of the efforts, it plans to establish a special military command in June, which is dedicated to protecting the border islands from possible North Korean provocations including amphibious infiltrations by its special warfare troops.

Inter-Korean tension has run high in the wake of the two deadly attacks last year that killed 50 South Koreans. The artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island came eight months after the North sank the corvette Cheonan. The North still denies its role in the sinking.

By Song Sang-ho (