S.Korea 'Unlikely' to Have Damaged N.Korean Artillery Positions

      December 01, 2010 12:12

      Choe Thae-bok (right), the chairman of the North's Supreme People's Assembly and secretary of the Workers Party's Central Committee, leaves Beijing Capital International Airport on arrival in China on Tuesday. /AP-Yonhap

      The military claims it inflicted serious damage on North Korean artillery positions in a counterattack last week to the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, but others say there was probably none at all.

      One North Korean defector who was a soldier at an artillery battery, told the Chosun Ilbo on Tuesday, "It's likely that no North Korean 122-mm multiple rocket launchers were damaged in South Korean military bombardments. Unless they fire another round of shots, they are brought back into the bunkers in less than seven minutes. If the South Korean response came 13 minutes later, that would give them more than enough time to evacuate."

      "It seems that one artillery battery was mobilized for the attack and around 108 rounds landed on Yeonpyeong Island and surrounding waters," the defector said. One artillery battery has nine of MRLs with 12 launching tubes each and is divided into communications, surveillance and surveying squads. Each MRL is manned by nine soldiers, including a leader and gunner.

      Unlike 240-mm MRLs, the 122-mm versions are not fired from the backs of trucks but must be dismounted and placed on a launching pad. They are pulled by mid-sized trucks. After firing 12 rounds, they move 2 km and prepare to fire the next salvo. The 122-mm MRLs have a range of between 20 km to 24 km and each round weighs 17 kg, the defector said.

      "The 240-mm MRLs are based at the military corps level, while the 122-mm versions are deployed at the infantry regimental level," the defector said. "The artillery battery responsible for shelling Yeonpyeong Island is apparently under the Fourth Army Corps." North Korea also has 107-mm MRLs but does not use them often and turns to the 122-mm ones during training.

      "The North holds artillery drills twice a year in spring and summer and only 12 rounds are fired each time," he added. "Unlike regular coastal artillery or howitzers, MRLs are capable of delivering intensive damage on a set target and riddle them with holes." He said North Korea's claim to have "aimed" its shots at South Korean artillery positions is implausible, suggesting it deliberately targeted civilians.

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