The military here has succeeded in test-firing a new homegrown ballistic missile with a range of about 500 km, putting almost all of North Korea within range from the central part of the country.
Currently, the longest range for a South Korean ballistic missile is 300 km, so its strike capability against the North will improve significantly.
"Late last month, a new homegrown missile with a range of about 500 km developed by the Agency for Defense Development was test-launched on the west coast," a government source said Thursday. "The missile hit the target and the test was considered successful."
It was observed by Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and other top brass. The missile was test-launched at a reduced range since there is nowhere on the west coast from where the maximum range can be achieved.
The new missile has a payload of 1 ton, about double the payload of the 300-km Hyunmu-2 ballistic missile and powerful enough to strike strategic targets in the North like underground command posts or missile bases. The military is expected to deploy it warfare-ready next year.
The test was conducted after South Korea won permission from the U.S. in 2012 to extend the range of its ballistic missiles from 300 km to 800 km.
The 500 km-range is shorter than the North's major ballistic missiles' but far more accurate to a radius of a few dozen meters. The accuracy of the North's Scud and Rodong missiles is between several hundreds of meters to 1 km.
South Korea is also expected to deploy another new missile with a range of 800 km from 2017. But its payload must not exceed half that of the 500-km missile, giving it less destructive power.
There are four to five North Korean missile bases within 300 km, six to seven within 400 km, and nine to 10 within 550 km from the South Korea's missile command in the central part of the country.