North deploys rocket launchers to islands in west

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North deploys rocket launchers to islands in west

North Korea has deployed 122-millimeter caliber multiple rocket launchers to islands near the inter-Korean maritime border, a South Korean military source exclusively told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday.

The 122-millimeter caliber rocket launchers were reportedly used during the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in November 2010, which killed four South Koreans including two civilians.

They are smaller than the multiple rocket launcher that may have been used Saturday in the three tests conducted by Pyongyang.

“Since March, North Korea has deployed multiple rocket launchers to western front-line islands including Jangjae, Mu, and Wolnae islands,” the source said. “The deployment of the launchers is ongoing, so we need to figure out how much North Korea strengthened its forces in the region.

“Those islands were where North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited,” the source added. “We assume that Kim directed the deployment of the launchers to this region.”

On March 7, Kim inspected military units at the western inter-Korean border and declared that the communist regime was ready to begin an all-out war, according to the North’s Korea Central News Agency.

At the time, Kim visited units on Mu and Jangjae islands and ordered the soldiers to be prepared to destroy enemy targets at a moment’s notice.

The troops on Mu Island were responsible for the Yeonpyeong Island shelling in 2010. Kim also instructed the troops on the specific order of attacks and targets on the South’s five northernmost islands, including Yeonpyeong, the report said.

Recently, North Korea has replaced the commander in charge of the western front-line islands, according to its state media. After Kim’s visit to the islands, Pyongyang reportedly strengthened the units there.

In response to the North’s apparent attempt to ratchet up tension, South Korea’s military deployed an Israel-made, antitank guided missiles to the northwestern front-line islands, in order to strike any North Korean artillery hidden in caves.

According to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, the military has dispatched multiple Spike missiles to some front-line islands in the Yellow Sea, including Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong islands.

With a range of 25 kilometers (15.5 miles), the Spike missile is capable of a precise strike on North Korean artillery concealed in caves or military mines by using an on-board camera. Soldiers can guide the missile by viewing the image from the camera.

The 70-kilogram (154-pound) missile is known to cost 200 or 300 million won ($268,500) each.

“It can destroy the enemy’s camps in mines and trace and strike a moving target,” an official at the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

When the North shelled Yeonpyeong Island in 2010, the South couldn’t strike the North’s long-range artillery units hidden in caves because it only used K9 self-propelled artillery.


By Kim Hee-jin, Jeong Yong-soo [heejin@joongang.co.kr]
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