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South Korea Moves to Boost Weaponry Amid Threats From North
South Korea Moves to Boost Weaponry Amid Threats From North

South Korea Moves to Boost Weaponry Amid Threats From North

South Korea Moves to Boost Weaponry Amid Threats From North

South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office four months ago with plans to reach out to North Korea in a way his conservative predecessors did not in the previous decade. Two ICBM launches and one nuclear test later, his government is ramping up its defenses, with some officials even considering asking the United States to bring back tactical nuclear weapons a generation after their removal from the Korean Peninsula.

Seoul’s new interest in stronger weapons received a boost Tuesday when the Trump administration agreed to remove previous restrictions on South Korean missiles, AP reported.

But South Korean hunger for military strength goes beyond just missiles. Government officials also endorse the nation getting nuclear-powered submarines. And Seoul’s defense minister says the idea of bringing back US tactical nukes to South Korea should be “deeply considered” by the allies.

This shift right by the liberal Moon underscores deep unease that the North’s expanding nuclear weapons arsenal will undermine the country’s decades-long alliance with the United States. Pyongyang may soon perfect an intercontinental ballistic missile that can target the US mainland.

South Korea says stronger missiles are crucial to the so-called “kill chain” pre-emptive strike capability it wants to use to target North Korea. A pre-emptive strike against Pyongyang’s leadership would be difficult to undertake, but it’s widely seen as the most realistic of the limited military options Seoul has to deny a nuclear attack from its rival.

In August, South Korea conducted the last scheduled flight test of a new missile with a range of 800 kilometers (500 miles). It will soon join the “Hyunmoo” family of ballistic missiles that currently have a maximum range of 500 kilometers (310 miles).

While Seoul’s military says its missiles are currently capable of wiping out North Korean structures on land, it says heavier warheads are needed to target North Korea’s underground facilities and bunkers.

Several South Korean government officials, including Prime Minster Lee Nak-yon, the country’s No. 2, have been calling for South Korea to acquire a nuclear-powered submarine. South Korea’s navy is planning a feasibility study over getting such vessels, although some experts see the possibility as low.

Supporters say such vessels are critical for coping with North Korea’s submarine-launched ballistic missile system because they can operate much longer than conventional diesel-powered submarines without refueling. That gives them a better chance to find and track North Korean subs, they argue.

 

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