Call to Revise Plans for Defense Against Nuclear Rockets

Experts are calling for South Korea to improve its missile defenses given the growing threat that North Korea will one day be able to make a nuclear warhead small enough to be carried by a rocket.

Prof. Choi Bong-wan of Hannam University said he carried out a computer simulation where North Korea fires a medium-range ballistic missile tipped with a nuclear warhead. The aim was to see what types of interceptor missiles would allow South Korea to deal most effectively with the threat.

Choi was speaking at a seminar hosted by the National Assembly's Defense Committee on Wednesday.

In one simulation, the North Korean Rodong missile with a range of 1,000 km carrying a 1-ton nuclear warhead reached Seoul within 11 minutes and 25 seconds, he said.

A Rodong missile with a shortened range of 300 km fired at a high angle toward Seoul would give a PAC-3 missile, a strong candidate for South Korea's missile defense, only one second to intercept at an altitude of 12-15 km.

A THAAD missile, which is another option for South Korea, would have a window of opportunity of 45 seconds to intercept an incoming missile at an altitude of 40-150 km.

And an SM-3 missile, another possible candidate, would have 288 seconds to intercept the potential nuclear missile at an altitude between 70 and 500 km, he added.

Currently, South Korea has only PAC-2 missiles, whose capability is much poorer than the PAC-3's, and is now seeking to purchase PAC-3 missiles. But Choi suggested that upgrade would offer little defense against a determined North Korean attack. / Jan. 16, 2014 10:53 KST

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