Gov't Mulls Turning Baeknyeong into Forward Deployment Base

      November 30, 2010 13:35

      The government is looking into using Baeknyeong Island in the West Sea as a forward-deployment base supporting marines in case of an amphibious landing on North Korea's west coast. "The presidential defense committee is looking into the possibility of turning the five West Sea islands including Baeknyeong into launching platforms for marine landings on North Korea's west coast in times of conflict and stationing strategic missiles with a range of some 500 km there," a government source said Monday.

      If missiles with ranges of 300 km to 500 km are stationed on Baeknyeong, key North Korean government and military installations, including the central administrative complex, nuclear facilities, missile bases and air strips, will fall within tactical reach.

      "The military has so far taken a passive approach to countering North Korean aggression, but the time has come to show the North that we are capable of countering their asymmetric threat," the source said. "The presidential committee presented an active suppression strategy as part of this plan."

      A Multiple Launch Rocket System (file photo)

      Officials are discussing building a military base on Baeknyeong that will contain the South Korean-made Hyunmu-3 cruise missiles with a range of 500 km and Hyunmu-2 and Army Tactical Missile Systems ballistic missiles with a range of 300 km. Also, amphibious landing vehicles will be stationed on Baeknyeong and other West Sea islands for use in times of war, and helicopter landing pads will be built as well.

      However, some military officials warn that such facilities and weapons could easily fall into North Korean hands due to the island's proximity to North Korea. The islands are just 10-20 km from North Korea.

      Lawmakers are also calling for the construction of military bases there. Grand National Party lawmaker Won Yoo-chul, who heads the National Assembly's Defense Committee, told the Chosun Ilbo, "We need to reorganize our troops and weapons so that the five West Sea islands can be turned into forward deployment bases in times of conflict by turning them into impenetrable fortresses."

      Former defense minister Kim Jang-soo, who is now a GNP lawmaker, said, "From a military perspective, the five West Sea islands are threats to North Korea, and we must look into turning them into forward launch bases by equipping them with precision-guided weapons and artillery that can immobilize North Korean coastal artillery."

      Yoo Seung-min, also a GNP lawmaker, said South Korea's Air Force needs to be radically upgraded to defend the five West Sea islands and Seoul. "If North Korea showers Seoul with artillery rounds and rockets, there are predictions that half of the capital will be destroyed in just a day," Yoo said. "The only solution is to deliver precise strikes on North Korean positions first through a massive air attack in the early stages of a war."

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