South Korea on Tuesday outlined plans to indigenously develop a long-range missile interceptor as a countermeasure to North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
An unidentified South Korean military official told the Korea Times that the envisioned long-range, surface-to-air missile would be domestically developed, instead of Seoul pursuing acquisition of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system or another foreign antimissile system.
A written proposal on the planned development of the interceptor is to be submitted to the South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration Committee next Wednesday, the official said.
"We expect the development to take seven years," the source said. "The system will be able to be deployed from around 2023 or 2024."
The envisioned interceptor is intended to have the ability to destroy launched missiles at heights of nearly 25 miles, he said.
The THAAD system is designed to intercept short-, medium, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles at a maximum range of slightly more than 93 miles.
The U.S. military has said it would like to deploy a THAAD unit to the South, which for its part is leery of accepting any U.S. missile defense technology that could be seen as aimed against China in addition to North Korea.
"With North Korea's evolving threat, we obviously, continuously look at ways that we can improve the defense of South Korea," U.S. Forces Korea chief Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti was quoted by the Korea Herald as saying on Tuesday. "This [THAAD] system provides a greater sensor array, better awareness of the threat, and adds to the interoperability of all of our systems."
The South Korean defense ministry says it will wait to consider whether to host a U.S. THAAD unit until the Pentagon makes a formal proposal on the matter.