South Korea is upping its land, air, and sea defense capabilities as tensions with its nuclear northern neighbor continue to run high.
Since North Korea conducted it fifth and most powerful nuclear test in early September, South Korea has been boosting its defense capabilities. Seoul approved plans Wednesday to combat North Korean provocations with new rockets, ships, and fighter jets, reports the Yonhap News Agency.
Seoul intends to develop a long-range rocket for a new independently-developed 230 mm multiple rocket launch system (MRLS), the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said in a statement.
“If deployed and launched, the new unguided projectile MRLS could wreck considerable havoc on exposed targets deep within enemy territory,” DAPA spokesman Kim Si-cheol told reporters, noting that a single rocket could destroy an area the size of three soccer fields.
Possibly aiming to combat the North’s accelerated naval modernization programs, the South intends to spend $16 million on 3,000-ton, next-generation Batch-III frigates.
South Korea will also acquire 40 F-35s in a $6 billion deal with Lockheed Martin. The U.S. company will also provide South Korea with a military communications satellite.
The South has a three-stage defense system to cope with threats from North Korea.
Stage one is the “Kill Chain,” which targets the North’s nuclear and missile facilities with cruise missiles and other conventional weapons in the event that a preemptive strike by the North is detected. Stage two is the Korea Air and Missile Defense (KAMD), which intercepts incoming missiles. Stage three is the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation (KMPR), which calls for the deployment of special forces to eliminate Kim Jong-un and other leadership in Pyongyang.
Seoul approved a plan in August to place greater numbers of home-grown cruise missiles along the border between North and South Korea. The South is putting together a special operations team to carry out the KMPR. The South Korean military has also been conducting invasion and surgical strike drills with the U.S.
Concerned by some of President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign trail comments on South Korea, which the business mogul criticized for not paying its fare share for U.S. defense, the South has been investing heavily in its independent defense capabilities.
“We are now heavily dependent on the U.S. In order to conduct independent operations, we will improve the functions of our own assets,” Chief Commander of Army Aviation Operations Command Major Gen. Jang Kwang-hyun explained in October.
“We will be steadfast and strong with respect to working with you to protect against the instability in North Korea,” Trump told South Korean Park Geun-hye told Thursday.
The U.S. has assured South Korea that it is committed to the country’s defense, and the two are still on track to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile shield in South Korea next year.
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