North Korea’s latest provocation appears to have alarmed South Korea’s dovish leadership.
After North Korea successfully tested Friday its second intercontinental ballistic missile in a month, senior leaders in Seoul contacted their counterparts in Washington to discuss the possibility of boosting South Korea’s offensive and defensive weapons systems, according to the New York Times.
Friday’s missile test demonstrated capabilities initially believed to be beyond North Korea. As North Korea’s programs are progressing faster than expected, South Korea has decided to increase the payload of its long-range ballistic missiles and deploy additional Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile units. South Korean leadership is determined to start negotiations with the U.S. on these issues immediately.
According to the terms of a bilateral treaty, South Korea is allowed to build missiles with ranges of 800 kilometers, but they cannot carry a conventional warhead weighing more than 500 kilograms. South Korea wants to mount a warhead weighing roughly one metric ton on its new Hyunmoo II ballistic missiles, which can range all of North Korea. The South Korean government brought the issue up in a summit meeting last month with plans to discuss it in greater detail later.
North Korea’s latest provocations has added a sense of urgency to the situation.
Enhanced missiles with heavier warheads will allow the South Korean military to penetrate North Korea’s hardened defenses in the event of a conflict.
Not only does South Korea want the ability to strike North Korea, but it also wants the ability to intercept incoming missiles.
The U.S. began installing THAAD in South Korea in March, after North Korea fired a salvo of missiles into the East Sea/Sea of Japan. The U.S. has already deployed two THAAD batteries to South Korea, and the anti-missile system has achieved initial intercept capability. After the conservative leadership was ousted for corruption, the liberals took power. The new South Korean government under President Moon Jae-in was initially opposed to THAAD, arguing that deploying missile defense systems on the peninsula unnecessarily escalated tensions by angering North Korea, China, and Russia. The deployment process has been delayed for several months now, but it appears that North Korea’s latest missile test has changed the president’s mind.
THAAD is one of America’s finest interceptors, with a perfect test performance record. “THAAD is better than anything South Korea has or will have for decades,” Bruce Klingner, the former chief of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Korea branch and now a senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, previously explained to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “It is imperative that we deploy it to augment the defense of Korea and the U.S. forces deployed there.”
THAAD is designed to intercept short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, like the ones North Korea tested prior to its shocking ICBM test. North Korea is advancing its ballistic missile program at an accelerated rate, significantly increasing the threat to South Korea, Japan, and now even the U.S.
In the wake of North Korea’s ICBM test, American and South Korean military personnel conducted a precision-strike drill, firing off their own missiles in a show of force. The allied response was the same as that which followed the first ICBM test earlier this month.
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