Beginning in 2016, South Korea plans to outfit its Aegis antimissile warships with Standard Missile 6 systems as a countermeasure to future threats from North Korea, the Yonhap News Agency reported on Wednesday, citing an anonymous high-ranking official.
The surface-to-air missile can travel as far as 250 miles and is an enhancement over the older SM-2 system, whose shorter range cannot adequately counter North Korean ballistic missiles.
Seoul's determination to purchase the SM-6 systems is in accordance with efforts to establish the Korea Air and Missile Defense System that would be focused on protecting against lower-tier threats. The indigenously built missile shield is to involve ship-based and ground-based antimissile systems, as well as radars. U.S. satellites will also provide information on missile threats.
South Korea and the United States have established a task force to collaboratively analyze the South's missile defense needs, according to the government official, who said the study is anticipated to be finished early next year.
Despite its cooperation with Washington, Seoul does not wish to link up its domestic antimissile efforts with the United States and other Asia-Pacific states out of concern this could antagonize China and also due to lingering historical grievances with Japan.