Park views test-fire of new missile

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Park views test-fire of new missile

The military said Wednesday that it has successfully test-fired a new ballistic missile capable of reaching anywhere within North Korea.

The Agency for Defense Development conducted the test on the newly developed missile, which has a range of 500 kilometers (310.7 miles) at the Anheung range in Taean, South Chungcheong, during President Park Geun-hye’s inspection.

It was the first time in 30 years that a president has visited the test site.

Park, who was accompanied by top security and military officials, including National Security Office Chief Kim Kwan-jin and Defense Minister Han Min-koo, visited the defense research institute to survey the nation’s preparedness against North Korea’s growing missile threat.

After Seoul and Washington revised their missile pact in October 2012 to allow South Korea to extend its ballistic missile range to 800 kilometers, the agency has worked to improve the capabilities of its projectiles.

The missile test-fired on Wednesday can potentially reach North Korea’s strategic facilities located further inland, such as the Yeongbyeon nuclear complex.

The military currently has ballistic missiles with up to a 300-kilometer range capable of carrying 500-kilogram (1,102 pound) warheads.

Park’s inspection came amid continuing efforts by North Korea to improve its missile capabilities. Last month, the nuclear-armed Communist regime fired a ballistic missile from a submarine, jolting not only Seoul, but Washington.

In addition to its efforts to miniaturize nuclear warheads, the North has consistently improved its missile capabilities. The North has operationally deployed Musudan missiles with up to a 3,000-kilometer range and is developing an inter-continental ballistic missile that can fly up to 13,000 kilometers.

“Her [President Park’s] visit was scheduled in advance, but it happened to provide an opportunity to demonstrate the military’s missile capabilities,” a government official told the JoongAng Ilbo.

The inspection was focused on the military’s preparation for what is known as the Kill Chain and the Korea Air and Missile Defense (KAMD), the Blue House said.

The Kill Chain is an integrated information, surveillance and pre-emptive strike system that can eliminate North Korean missiles before they are launched. The KAMD is Korea’s own missile defense system that uses a terminal-phase, low-altitude, hit-and-kill approach.

“The test-fired missile is a guided-weapons system, a modification on the existing ballistic missile,” the Blue House said in a press release after Park’s visit. “It is a core weapons system for the Kill Chain that can pre-emptively strike the North’s nuclear and missile threats.”

The Blue House also said the test-launch proved the country’s ability to quickly and precisely hit a target in North Korea.

The government aimed to complete the Kill Chain and the KAMD by 2020, investing about 20 trillion won ($18.08 billion). But security experts fear that the plan would be useless if the North acquires the capability to fire ballistic missiles from submarines and use mobile missile launchers from the ground.

During Park’s visit, the agency also test-fired a modified Cheolmae-II, a surface-to-air guided missile. The agency is currently improving the system to intercept ballistic missiles from all directions at low altitude, and the Blue House said the agency will further develop long-range surface-to-air missiles based on the new Cheolmae-II to intercept targets at a higher altitude.

The project is a key part of the KAMD.

Park also viewed video footage for the test-launch of guided rockets aimed at destroying air-cushioned vehicles and high-speed wave-penetrating boats from the North’s special operations units.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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