Top Brass Discuss Asymmetric Threat from N.Korea

The Defense Ministry on Monday belatedly discussed how to defend key installations against attacks from North Korean unmanned aerial vehicles. Experts say drones are another manifestation of North Korea's asymmetric warfare capability, in addition to missiles, long-range artillery, special forces units, chemical and biological weapons, and cyber terror.

The greatest threat is the North's special forces, which number around 200,000, the largest in the world. These guerrilla troops can be flown in deep behind the front lines aboard low-flying AN-2 transport planes to wreak havoc on key installations as well as military targets.

The military here hopes to counter them with its own special forces and reserve troops, but they are currently outnumbered 10:1.

North Korea's main targets in South Korea are believed to be power, rail, water and communications supply networks. The North is expected to attempt sabotage of key infrastructure, seeking to divide the public as it searches for the culprit. Gas and fuel storage depots and chemical production plants also make important targets of North Korean terror attacks.

The North's stockpile of an estimated 2,500 to 5,000 tons of chemical weapons and 10 different types of biological warfare agents would also pose a grave threat.

Authorities here believe missile batteries and long-range artillery stationed along the tightly sealed border are ready to be fitted with chemical warheads.

North Korean long-range artillery poses a significant threat to Seoul. Out of 1,100 North Korean artillery pieces, 240 multiple launch rocket systems and 100 self-propelled howitzers are trained towards Seoul. They are capable of showering the capital with up to 16,000 rounds of shells per hour, decimating an 190 sq.km area.

South Korean and U.S. officials aim to cripple North Korea's long-range artillery within the first day of a war by using K-9 self-propelled howitzers, MLRS and Joint Direct Attack Munition also known as "smart" bombs. But this still leaves open the possibility of hours of North Korean shelling before they are wiped out.

North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests so far, but military authorities believe it has yet to produce a nuclear warhead small enough to mount on a missile. The North has around 1,000 Scud and Rodong missiles that are in theory capable of delivering a nuclear payload, and experts believe it will eventually succeed in miniaturizing nuclear warheads.

South Korea and the U.S. intend to deliver preemptive strikes against North Korean nuclear missiles before they are launched.

The Defense Ministry is also developing an independent missile defense system called Korea Air and Missile Defense, which consists of a battery of PAC-3 missiles and domestically developed medium-range surface-to-air missiles. But they have their limitations in defending South Korea against mobile North Korean missile launchers.

Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin in a meeting with top brass on Monday said it is "urgent" for the South to come up with response measures against small North Korean UAVs which could be used to launch terror attacks against South Korean targets.

englishnews@chosun.com / Apr. 08, 2014 11:30 KST

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