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South Korea developing new ballistic missile in apparent race with North

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A file photo of South Korean marines during a military exercise in the city of Pohang in 2018. (By Reuters)

South Korea has been developing a ballistic missile that can carry a warhead of up to an upgraded 3 tons, according to Seoul’s latest military plan.

The surface-to-surface missile, which has a range of 350-400 kilometers, is in the last stage of development, according to Yonhap news agency, which cited unnamed sources. It is designed to destroy underground facilities such as those North Korea is believed to use to store nuclear weapons.

In its military blueprint for 2022-2026, the South Korean Defense Ministry said it would develop new missiles “with significantly enhanced destructive power,” deploy new interceptors against long-range artillery threats, and upgrade its US-supplied Patriot missile systems.

“We will develop stronger, longer-range, and more precise missiles so as to exercise deterrence and achieve security and peace on the Korean Peninsula,” the ministry said in a statement.

South Korea’s mid-term military plan calls for spending 315.2 trillion won (273 billion dollars) — displaying an average 5.8-percent increase on a yearly basis — over the next five years. That suggests the new ballistic missile could be put into operation before 2026.

In 2020, South Korea announced that its new Hyunmoo-4 short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) could carry a 2-ton warhead, while in March, North Korea tested an SRBM that it said could deliver a 2.5-ton payload.

The latest development came after Seoul and Washington agreed to lift the “missile guidelines” restrictions that had barred South Korea from developing or possessing ballistic missiles with a maximum range of greater than 800 kilometers in May this year.

Meanwhile, commercial satellite images purportedly show large-scale movements in North Korea in preparation for a military parade, according to two organizations that track the country. North Korea usually unveils new military hardware, including large ballistic missiles, during military parades.

“North Korea has used military parades in the past to boost internal resolve and show off its latest weapon developments to the world,” NK Pro, a Seoul-based organization, said in a report on Thursday.


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