South to upgrade defense against North cyberattacks

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South to upgrade defense against North cyberattacks

South Korea will develop a variety of offensive and defensive cyberwarfare weapons and reinforce manpower at the military cyber command, as part of its bid to enhance preparedness against threats of cyberattacks from North Korea, the Ministry of Defense said yesterday.

In a mid- to long-term defense plan reported to President Lee Myung-bak, the ministry also said that it will drastically increase the deployment of surface-to-surface ballistic missiles targeting North Korea’s nuclear weapons facilities and missile bases.

Seoul accused Pyongyang of interfering with GPS jamming signals on civilian flights and commercial ships operating near the nations’ western border earlier this year as well as hacking government Web sites and banking systems in the last couple of years.

The defense plan calls for the military to secure intelligence assets and double the number of service personnel at the Cyber Command to 1,000. The special unit was launched in January of 2010 in response to the growing threat of cyberattacks from Pyongyang.

“Programs and vaccines will be developed to help the military carry out cyberwarfare and secure comprehensive capabilities [to cope with the North’s threats],” said a senior ministry official, who is in charge of crafting defense reform policy.

The defense program was first crafted in 2005 under the Roh Moo-hyun administration, and has since been revised several times.

The proposal also calls for drastically increasing the number of surface-to-surface ballistic missiles on the front line to swiftly cope with unprovoked attacks from North Korea’s nuclear facilities and missile bases.

“The Air Force and the military’s cruise missiles have a clear limit in swiftly countering moves by the North to launch nuclear weapons and missiles,” the official explained.

Under the plan, the Navy will establish a submarine command in 2015 and deploy six next-generation destroyers, dubbed “mini aegis” vessels, from 2019 to 2026. The Air Force will set up a 200-man aerospace command to monitor information-gathering satellites above the peninsula.

The ministry asked for an additional budget of 59.3 trillion won ($52.3 million) to enforce the five-year plan from 2012-2016. It needs parliamentary approval to be implemented.

The military will also expand the number of female service members, filling 7 percent of officer posts and 5 percent of noncommissioned officer posts with women by 2017, three years ahead of the originally planned 2020.

The number of South Korean military troops will be reduced from the current 636,000 to 522,000 by 2022.

Pyongyang has taken a hostile tone with the South since its young leader Kim Jong-un took power in December last year, following the death of his father Kim Jong-il. Tensions have risen as the North has threatened an “all-out battle” against the South, denouncing the ongoing annual joint military drill with the United States.

The two Koreas remain technically at war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

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