South Korea wants to double its firepower and mount heavier warheads on its short-range missiles.
Seoul proposed revising the missile guidelines put in place by Washington during a summit meeting last month, pushing to significantly increase the weight of its conventional warheads to one metric ton, the Yonhap News Agency reported Monday.
North Korea’s core strategic facilities, such as the nuclear and missile bases and wartime command centers, are located deep underground, and military experts believe the South’s 500-kilogram warheads are not strong enough to penetrate North Korea’s defenses.
“With a 1-ton warhead, we will make remarkable progress in our ability to strike North Korea’s leadership,” Jang Young-geun, a missile expert at Korea Aerospace University told The Korea Herald. The North is believed to have several thousand underground bunkers.
The allies revised the missile guidelines in 2012, extending the range of South Korea’s missiles from 300 km to 800 km. South Korean President Moon Jae-in oversaw the test of the Hyunmoo-2, a ballistic missile able to range all of North Korea, in June. While the range is impressive, observers believe the warhead to be ineffective.
With a larger warhead, the South could target underground facilities, including the bunker where young North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un might try to hide in the event of a conflict on the Korean Peninsula. Improved capabilities could potentially aid the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation strategy, which aims to “reduce to ashes” and “remove from the map” Pyongyang and eliminate the North Korean leadership, according to defense officials.
“If a payload of 1 ton can be loaded on an 800-kilometer range missile, our military will be able to conduct the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation (KMPR) plan more effectively as the missile’s penetration capability will be seriously improved,” a military official told Korean media.
“The military is reviewing various measures to effectively respond to North Korea’s evolving nuclear and missile threats,” Ministry of National Defense spokesman Moon Sang-gyun said, without going into details about its specific plans, according to The Korea Times.
The Trump administration has reportedly responded positively to Seoul’s plans, but the South Korean government plans to discuss the issue further later this year.
North Korea’s missile program is progressing at an accelerated rate. The North has tested a batch of never-before-seen short-, medium-, intermediate-, and long-range ballistic missiles this year, raising alarms in neighboring countries and extending the threat far beyond its borders.
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