August 25, 2016 13:13
North Korea test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile in waters off its east coast on Wednesday, which flew about 500 km before landing in Japan's air identification zone, the longest flight yet by a North Korean SLBM.
Fired at a lower angle the missile could have flown more than 1,000 km, according to South Korean military officials.
South Korean and U.S. military officials estimated it would take considerable time before the North can actually deploy such missiles, but now they believe they could be ready by the end of this year.
North Korea has conducted back-to-back test launches of ballistic missiles and succeeded in most of them. It has boasted about its ability to strike Okinawa, Japan and even the U.S. territory of Guam and threatened ports in Busan and Ulsan, aiming to cripple the offloading of crucial U.S. military supplies in the event of a war.
The last remaining threat the North had up its sleeve was an SLBM, and now it has become a reality.
An SLBM poses an entirely new level of threat. North Korean submarines could sneak into South Korean waters and fire a missile that would render existing defenses useless. The U.S. and Japan now fall under the threat of North Korean SLBMs, which could trigger major changes to the security environment here.
The biggest problem is that South Korean anti-submarine warfare is no good, as demonstrated during the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan in 2010. If the North decides to launch an SLBM instead of a torpedo, it is not difficult to imagine the damage.
There have been calls for some time to come up with measures to deal with such a North Korean threat but no actual progress.
The only way is to strengthen Seoul's missile defense. At present, the only means at its disposal is the U.S.' Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery. If more THAAD are needed, there should be no hesitation.
Seoul must also speed up development of its own missile defense system in order to create more layers of protection. From a long-term perspective, South Korea needs to acquire nuclear-powered submarines that can operate continuously underwater for months so that they can constantly track and monitor North Korean subs.
The nimbys here must stop placing top priority on protecting the monetary value of their land and allow the THAAD batteries to be deployed in any area where they are needed.
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