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South Korea Not Joining U.S. Antimissile Program: Defense Ministry

South Korea on Friday affirmed that it would not join the U.S. program for defending against missile attacks, the Yonhap News Agency reported.

Following a meeting with South Korea's defense chief, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last week that the two allies continued to consider how Seoul might participate in an antimissile structure in Northeast Asia.

A Defense Ministry insider subsequently sought to address talk that South Korea might become involved in the U.S. ballistic missile defense program.

"The [missile defense] system that the United States envisions is a multilayered defense system, which is fundamentally different from the Korean type of missile defense system that is oriented to low-layer defense," according to the unidentified official.

The source added: "We cannot but build a low-layer defense system under operational situations on the Korean Peninsula. Therefore, building the KAMD (Korean Air and Missile Defense) means never participating in U.S. efforts to build a multilayer defense system."

Seoul cannot depend on the U.S. program for protection against North Korean missiles that could hit the South within five to six minutes, according to officials. Those officials, though, have emphasized the value of collaboration given the U.S. technical capacities for detecting potential North Korean missile activity.

The South is moving quickly to field sophisticated Patriot Advanced Capability 3 air-defense systems due to problems with its PAC-2 units, Yonhap reported on Sunday.

The older PAC-2 technology could be used against North Korean cruise missiles as well as short- and midrange missiles. However, "the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses and the Missile Defense Agency of the U.S. have just concluded a joint study on the KAMD and found that the PAC-2 system has an interception success rate of below 40 percent," according to a senior government source. "A variety of simulations have concluded that in order to raise the interception rate to above 70 percent, the (South Korean) military has to move to the PAC-3 system."

Seoul spent $909 million to acquire 48 PAC-2 systems from Germany. The system's firing units are not compatible with PAC-3 technology, Yonhap reported.

 

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