Seoul’s satellite, missile defense plans outlined

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Seoul’s satellite, missile defense plans outlined

The Korean military plans to develop five reconnaissance satellites that can spy on North Korea and deploy them by the early 2020s, according to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA).

It also plans to develop a long-range, surface-to-air L-SAM missile based on its indigenous technology to shield against North Korea’s guided missiles, said the administration’s spokesperson Baek Yoon-hyung in a briefing Wednesday.

This is an indication that Seoul is resisting Washington’s mounting pressure for Korea to adopt its Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antiballistic missile system, which is designed to intercept missiles at an altitude of 40 to 150 kilometers (24 to 93 miles).

Baek said a defense acquisition project meeting chaired by Minister of National Defense Kim Kwan-jin was convened to decide the Korean military’s arms development and deployment projects.

As a part of its comprehensive defense reform plan for 2014-2030, Baek said, the Korean military will produce five indigenous multi-purpose satellites to increase monitoring of the region and enhance its capability of collecting imagery of the Korean Peninsula. Once in orbit, these advanced satellites would be able to collect imagery of North Korea without being affected by weather.

Baek added that the satellites will be able to “distinguish cars and even people.”

Over 1 trillion won ($982 million) is earmarked for the project, which will be launched next year under the supervision of the Agency for Defense Development.

The L-SAM missiles will be aimed at enhancing South Korea’s capability of intercepting ballistic missiles during their descending phase at an altitude of 40 kilometers or higher.

They will be developed starting from next year and be deployed in the early 2020s.

The Pentagon has been pressuring Korea to join the Thaad missile system, which Seoul believes will lead to tensions with China and Russia. The Thaad system can intercept missiles at an altitude of 40-150 km.

Seoul wants to upgrade the Korea Air and Missile Defense, which was launched in 2006 and uses South Korean missile defense radar with early warning data from U.S. satellites. The Defense Ministry is in the process of upgrading its lower-capability Patriot Advanced Capability-2 (PAC-2) to PAC-3s.

“North Korea’s missile threat has increased recently and we are reviewing various plans in order to defend against this,” said an official of DAPA. “It can be seen that we are officially launching an interception system that is indigenously built.”

The L-SAM would establish a multi-layered missile defense system, according to DAPA. If the L-SAM fails to shoot down missiles at a higher altitude, the PAC-3 and medium-range surface-to-air M-SAM missiles would be able to intercept them as they descend further.

BY SARAH KIM, JEONG YONG-SOO [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]


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