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South Korea Plans $2.1B Missile Purchase

A $2.1 billion South Korean initiative to procure 500-600 ballistic and cruise missiles over a half-decade would seek to bolster the nation's capability to disable North Korea's atomic armaments and other threats in a potential crisis, the Chosun Ilbo reported on Tuesday (see GSN, May 17).

"Given the mounting threat of provocations from the North since Kim Jong Un took power, the Defense Ministry reported to [South Korean] President Lee Myung-bak last month a plan to increase missile capabilities in response to asymmetric threats from the North," one official told the newspaper on Sunday (see related GSN story, today).

Lee backed the proposed purchase following a briefing late last month from Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin, according to the insider. The armed forces hope to execute the effort in short order once Seoul responds to a planned request for a spending blueprint, the Chosun Ilbo reported.

Procurement could include acquisition of additional Hyunmu 3 cruise missiles, a weapon capable of traveling between roughly 310 and 930 miles and striking within 3.2-9.8 feet of its intended destination, the newspaper said. The Hyunmu 2 ballistic missile, another armament slated for purchase in greater numbers, can hit targets up to 186 miles away in an area of 164 feet, according to the newspaper.

The price tag for each new weapon is about $3.4 million.

The armaments, made public in April, are intended in an initial phase of any conflict to neutralize North Korean control centers and air installations, as well as sites linked to the country's Rodong and Scud missile arsenals and to its atomic, biological and chemical armaments (see GSN, July 19, 2010; Chosun Ilbo, May 22).

The South Korean Defense Ministry offered no specific response to reports on the missile acquisition plans. It noted that the government "agrees on the necessity of bolstering its missile capability," according to Agence France-Presse (Agence France-Presse/Dawn, May 22).

South Korea's armed forces also intend to bolster antimissile expenditures as a hedge against potential hostilities from Pyongyang, the Defense Ministry verified on Tuesday. A ministry spokesman did not elaborate, Arirang News reported (Kim Han-ul, Arirang News, May 22).

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