South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin on Thursday called for rapid preparation and fielding of new longer-range ballistic missiles against the North Korean threat, the Yonhap News Agency reported.
Seoul is authorized under a new bilateral defense agreement with the United States to domestically manufacture high-altitude missiles with ranges close to 500 miles -- a distance that permits targeting of all areas in North Korea. Initial South Korean procurement objectives called for the new missiles to be fielded no later than 2017,but the armed forces are anticipated to speed up the deployment timeline to 2015.
"Many of North Korea's missile bases are located in the rear (northern region)," Kim said to a unit of forward-deployed South Korean troops. "To be able to destroy the origin of provocations, ballistic missiles with an 800-kilometer range should be promptly put in place."
The North in December launched a long-range rocket, which demonstrated for the first time an initial capability to send ballistic missiles across oceans. The international community is also highly concerned about the strong likelihood that Pyongyang will carry out its third nuclear test in the near future.