Beware of North’s new launcherNorth Korea has repeatedly fired rockets from a new type of multiple-rocket launcher and short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea since Feb. 21. The first launch took place during the inter-Korean family reunions last month, followed by the Korea-U.S. Key Resolve military exercises three days later. At a National Assembly session, Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said it was a “show of force aimed at intentionally heightening tensions during the joint drill.”
Multiple provocations in such a short period of time is very rare. The North likely was trying to send a message that it can target South Korea, as the rockets and missiles have a firing range of 50 to 500 kilometers, or 31 to 310 miles. Minister Kim didn’t rule out the possibility that North Korea could fire more missiles or conduct a nuclear test to provoke the South further. It is time to closely monitor the North’s military movements to prepare for additional provocations.
The biggest threat to our security is the North’s multiple-rocket launchers. Though North Korean missiles can precisely strike strategic targets in the South, signs of an attack can be detected due to their guidance systems. As a result, the South Korean Army can intercept them in midair. But rocket launchers can hardly be detected in advance. This time, North Korea fired six rockets from its new 300-millimeter multiple-rocket launchers, which can hit targets 200 kilometers away. The rocket’s destructive power is believed to be on par with that of a missile.
The range of the multiple-rocket launchers poses an unprecedented threat as they can strike the nerve center of ROK and U.S. forces in Korea. If launched from Kaesong city, they can easily reach the military headquarters at Gyeryongdae in South Chungcheong. Plus, rocket launchers can only be destroyed by ground-to-ground missiles. The 300-millimeter launchers are equipped with strong guidance systems that can use Russia’s Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS). Though cheaper than missiles, the launchers can fire more rockets, too. North Korea is known to possess about 5,000 launchers, ranging from 107 millimeters to 300 millimeters.
The problem is a critical lack of countermeasures, as South Korea is only equipped with our equivalent of the North’s multiple-rocket launchers. Though we have the Iron Dome - a mobile air-defense system developed in Israel - its accuracy has not been proven yet. The government must readjust its security and defense strategies in accordance with the sophistication of the North’s conventional weapons systems.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 6, Page 30