[Outlook] Upgrade Korea’s missile responseUpgrade Korea’s missile response
North Korea has finally made good on its plan to fire an Unha-2 rocket, which it said carried its Kwangmyongsong-2 satellite.
South Korea, the United States and North Korea have different analyses regarding whether the North’s rocket launch was a success, but at least two things are certain.
First, through the recent rocket launch, North Korea has confirmed once again that missile development can be a very useful card against South Korea and the outside world.
Second, the North has succeeded at least in firing a missile with separating stages, which may not be a drastic leap in development of missile technology but is surely one gradual step forward.
When we assume that North Korea won’t give up developing weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear weapons or missiles, which it sees as symbols of a strong state, in defiance of advice and pressure from the international community, what we must do becomes clear.
The most reliable way to deter provocation is to have a balance of terror. That means giving the other side the idea that an attack would lead to its own self-destruction.
Since North Korea deployed Scud-B and Scud-C missiles with a range of 300 to 500 kilometers in 1988, the North’s ballistic missiles have constantly represented a clear and present threat to us. The recent rocket launch has merely reminded us of this fact, which had been overshadowed by optimistic thoughts of peaceful relations between South and North Korea.
We need three important capabilities to respond to North Korea’s missiles: the ability to detect them, the ability to intercept them and the ability to retaliate.
The second and the third are especially useful and important to maintain a balance of terror. Our military possesses the middle-range Nike missiles, the short-range Hawk missiles and the short-range Cheonma missiles, and it is about to introduce PAC-2 missiles. We can regard these as the assets we can use to respond to North Korea’s missiles.
However, the Nike and Hawk missiles were developed more than 50 years ago and their reliability for antiaircraft defense purposes has been gradually falling. The Cheonma is a relatively new model that has been mass-produced since the late 1980s, but it is still hard to view it as a response to a Scud missile.
The general opinion is that it is hard to expect a safe defense from the Patriot PAC-2 model either. For this reason, we should complete the indigenous Cheolmae-2 missile project, now under development.
We also must examine introducing a more advanced system to handle Scud missiles, such as ground-to-air PAC-3 missiles or ship-to-air SM-6 missiles.
Our capacity to retaliate also has some limitations.
Our Hyunmu missile has a range of around 180 kilometers. We signed the Missile Technology Control Regime in 2001, and the agreement was revised in the same year, so we are obliged to abide by a weight limit of 500 kilograms for a warhead and a range limit of 300 kilometers. That means even if we increase our missiles’ range it must not exceed the limit.
Therefore we need to think about opening negotiations and discussions with the United States to be allowed exceptions when we develop ballistic missiles in the future. We can make use of these exceptions even as we abide by the other clauses of the MTCR. As we plan to enhance our military capacity in line with reforms and the takeover of wartime control, we work to introduce a system that can hit a target accurately from a long distance. That system could be the Joint Direct Attack Munition equipped with GPS, or the Standoff Land Attack Missile Expanded Response, or SLAM-ER. We need to pay more attention and introduce such a system as soon as possible.
We should remember that we need to increase our capacity quietly but steadily. That is the most efficient and effective way to prevent more provocations.
*The writer is a senior researcher at the Korea Institute of Defense Analysis. Translation by the JooongAng Daily staff.
by Cha Du-hyeon