October 25, 2006 08:40
South Korean military authorities are developing or have developed four kinds of cruise missiles with a range of between 500 and 1,500 km.
A government source on Tuesday revealed that the ground-to-ground Hyunmu-3 has a range of 1,000 km and the Hyunmu-3A a range of 1,500 km, the air-to-ground Boramae a range of more than 500 km, and the ship-to-surface and submarine-to-surface Chonryong a range of more than 500 km. It was the first time these details were made public.
The source said the military and the state-run Agency for Defense Development (ADD) succeeded in developing the Hyunmu-3 and are already deploying some at an unnamed base. "We have made significant progress in developing the Hyunmu-3A which extends the Hyunmu-3's range to 1,500 km," he added. That means it would be capable of hitting anywhere in North Korea as well as a significant number of major targets in neighboring countries, including Tokyo and Beijing, improving the country's strategic strike capability.
The cruise missiles perform with greater accuracy, being able to hit targets with a margin of error of 5 m to match the U.S. Tomahawk missile, sources say. Under a 2001 agreement with the U.S., South Korea is barred from developing ballistic missiles with a range of more than 300 km and a warhead of more than 500 km. But cruise missiles are classified in the same category as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), and those with a warhead of less than 500 kg are exempt from restrictions on their range. The fact that the military already deploys or is developing long-range cruise missiles suggests it considers them a key strategic weapon.
North Korea has the Rodong missile, which has a range of 1,300 km, and has developed the Taepodong-2, which is said to have a range of more than 6,000 km. The South so far only had the 300 km-range Hyunmu developed with its own technology and the ATACMS missiles from the U.S., which put it at a severe disadvantage.
Seoul is developing cruise missiles as strategic weapons to counter the North Korean missile threat and deter neighboring countries in case of unification. The missile project began in earnest in the early 90s and progressed considerably, but details have been a closely guarded secret. Thus nothing was known about the Hyunmu-3 although it has been deployed for a couple of years.
Why is this information leaking out now? Military authorities say the cruise missiles should remain a secret for the time being since they could provoke tensions with China and Japan. But after North Korea's missile test in July and nuclear test earlier this month and the government's plan to exercise sole wartime operational control of its troops, some government officials asked the Defense Ministry to reveal more about its cruise missile development, sources said. The ministry remains cautious, saying it cannot officially confirm the information.
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