South Korea says it is capable of detecting and intercepting North Korean missiles

South Korea maintains that North’s advancing nuclear programme poses a great threat to the world

Namita Singh
Tuesday 11 October 2022 15:38 BST
Related: US and South Korea launch missiles drill in response to North Korea latest threat

South Korea said on Tuesday that it is capable of detecting and intercepting the flurry of missiles North Korea recently launched in a “simulation” of a nuclear attack on the country.

It maintained that the advancing nuclear programme of their neighbours posed a great threat to the world.

“North Korea is consistently developing and upgrading its nuclear weapons and posing nuclear threats to not only our Republic of Korea but the world,” South Korea’s president Yoon Suk-yeol told reporters.

“I believe it has nothing to gain from nuclear weapons,” said the president as he tried to reassure the public asking them “not worry too much and do your best with economic activities and livelihoods”.

Earlier, North Korea’s state news agency KCNA reported that the country’s missile tests were designed to simulate showering the South with tactical nuclear weapons as a warning after large-scale navy drills by South Korean and US forces.

The launches, part of the North’s record-breaking run of weapons tests this year, were seen as an attempt by leader Kim Jong-un to acquire a more intimidating arsenal to pressure its rivals to accept the North as a legitimate nuclear state and lift economic sanctions on them.

Mr Yoon said he would build robust capabilities to counter the North’s threats through the US alliance and trilateral security cooperation involving Japan. A spokesperson at the South Korean defence ministry described North Korean nuclear threats as “very grave and serious”.

Asserting the country’s capabilities of detecting the missiles, the spokesperson said they are still pushing to introduce spy satellites, various surveillance drones and additional sea-based reconnaissance assets to better monitor North Korea.

The president is receiving backlash from the country’s progressive main opposition, which has accused him of pursuing a “pro-Japan defence policy”, an issue that remains sensitive due to resentment over Japan’s colonial rule from 1910-45.

The president, however, set aside the concerns, saying it cannot be “justified in the face of nuclear threat”.

Meanwhile, some defence observers have noted that North’s newly developed weapons including a highly manoeuvrable KN-23 missile modelled on Russia’s Iskander missile and a developmental hypersonic missile, might overcome South Korean and US missile defence systems.

Outside concerns about North Korea’s nuclear programme have also grown since it adopted a law authorising preemptive use of nuclear weapons.

In August, Kim Yo-jong, sister of Kim Jong-un, ridiculed the US and South Korea’s military for allegedly misidentifying the exact site of their two previous missile tests.

“If the data and flight trajectory [of the missiles] are known, [South Korea] will be so bewildered and afraid,” she said.

According to the North Korean announcement on its seven rounds of launches, the weapons mobilised in the drills include a new type of intermediate-range ballistic missile that travelled about 4,500km (2,800 miles), a distance sufficient to reach the US Pacific territory of Guam and beyond.

Another missile that North Korea said was launched from a silo under an inland reservoir was likely a new version of its KN-23 missile, which has a lower-trajectory flight that provides it with greater chances of evading missile defence systems.

While South Korea, Japan and the US authorities reported all seven rounds of missile launches, none of their public reports included a reservoir-launched missile, an apparent failure to detect whether the weapon was launched from underwater.

Kim Jun-rak, a spokesperson at South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that a missile launch from a reservoir was seen as a desperate attempt by North Korea to escape South Korean and US surveillance but failed to comment on whether it posed a security threat to the county.

Additional reporting from agencies

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