South to Boost Surgical Strike Capability Against North
The South Korean military plans to speed up efforts to deploy ground, air and naval weapons systems for use in strikes against key facilities in North Korea in the event of war, the Ministry of National Defense said Friday.
The plan is part of a revised version of a military modernization package. The ministry unveiled the revision of the Defense Reform 2020 initiative drawn up in 2005.
The updated plan is focused on securing independent capabilities to remove North Korea's asymmetrical military threat of nuclear and missile programs by deploying sophisticated surveillance, reconnaissance and striking assets.
In the case of an emergency, the military could conduct pre-emptive strikes against nuclear and missile facilities, an official at the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.
``That depends on a decision by the leadership,'' the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
Under an integrated defense mechanism, the Air Force's multi-purpose satellite, early warning aircraft and high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicles, along with a ground-based early warning radar, conduct surveillance and reconnaissance missions around the clock, according to the defense reform plan.
Once signs of unusual movement, such as missile and nuclear tests, are detected, F-15K and other advanced aircraft are to conduct surgical strikes against the relevant facilities, it says.
Both ship-based and ground-based interceptors are ready to shoot down missiles from the North, it says.
The military is considering the introduction of up-to-date SM-6 extended range active missiles, which are being developed by the U.S. Navy and Raytheon, the JCS official said.
The purchase of the PAC-3 missile interceptor system is also under consideration, he said.
The Army, for its part, will triple the number of its K-9 self-propelled howitzers and next-generation multiple launch rocket systems to counter attacks by North Korea's long-range artillery deployed near the border.
About 15 trillion won ($11.6 billion) will go towards producing and deploying about 1,000 K-9 and new multiple launch rocket systems by 2020, said the JCS official.
The North is believed to have about 1,100 long-range artillery systems, including 60-kilometer-range 240mm rocket launchers, along the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas.
Under the revised plan, the military has readjusted its target troop reduction number to 517,000. The original plan called for cutting the troop level from 690,000 to 500,000 by 2020.
For example, the military has decided to decrease the number of Marine force cuts from 4,000 to 3,200, in a bid to boost defense against North Korea's provocation in the volatile western waters.
The military has also decided to withdraw a plan to slash the number South Korean service members supporting the U.S. Army here, called Korean Augmentation Troops to the U.S. Army (KATUSA).
In an Army restructuring plan, five regional corps and two mechanized corps will be operated separately from three specialized commands for air operations, guided missiles and special operations.
The Capital Defense Command in Seoul will serve as the regional corps responsible for the defense of the capital area after merging with the Capital Defense Corps currently based in Gyeonggi Province.
The Army will maintain 28 divisions in peacetime. In case of an emergency, the number will increase to 38 with the reinforcement of reserved troops.