Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sharks instead of sunshine

We have another indicator that Kim Dae Jung’s sunshine policy has sent out one of its last rays. A last week’s report by the Korean Times strongly underlines that Seoul is no longer trying to hug its northern neighbor until it smiles:

South Korea began deploying 1,000-kilometer-range surface-to-surface cruise missiles in the field earlier this year, according to missile developers and military sources Monday. The missile, a modified variant of the Hyunmoo missile, is capable of reaching as far as Beijing and Tokyo, as well as hitting key targets in the entire North Korean territory, they said.It is the first time that the development and deployment of the long-range cruise missile, dubbed Hyunmoo-III, have been confirmed.
The Hyunmoo-III brings into reach DPRK’s long-range missile sites, including the Musudan-ri site in North Hamgyeong Province. The cruise missile is reported to have a CEP of 5 meters. The state-funded Agency for Defense Development is currently developing a newer version of the missile family: the Hyunmoo-IIIA, with an extended range of up to 1,500km. The new cruise missile is based on the Hyunmoo-I and II which are ballistic missiles with a range of 180 to 300km.

It comes to no surprise that the argument that Seoul brings forward for the deployment of the Hyunmoo-III is the threat posed by North Korea's increasing asymmetrical capability of missile and nuclear weapons. According to the Koran Times article, DPRK has deployed more than 600 Scud missiles with a range of 320-500 kilometers and 200 Rodong missiles with a range of 1,300 kilometers near the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas.

Missile gap … we have heard this before. Let’s see how long it will take DPRK to justify its own missile program with the same argument. Pyongyang already said that it will closely watch the international reaction on South Korea's planned launch of a carrier rocket with a satellite on board following criticism of a similar launch conducted by Pyongyang. Kim Jong Il has a point because the launch has also a military purpose:

The launch of the Naro-ho will offer a great opportunity for the Sejong destroyer to test and evaluate its [Aegis missile-defense system] performances, since a space vehicle, in general, has almost the same design, components, and technology as those of an ICBM.
The Hyunmoo is not the only field where Seoul is increased its activities: South Korea's defense ministry said on August 13 that newly developed ‘Red Shark’ anti-submarine guided missiles will be deployed on destroyers by 2012 to beef up the country's naval defense. The missiles are capable of hitting underwater targets after first flying over water. South Korean destroyers will begin to carry about 60 to 70 long-range anti-submarine missiles.

It will be hard for Pyongyang to react to these developments in its well-known manner, i.e. by clenching its fist, banging the table and launching some missiles: impoverished North Korea has spent an estimated US$700 million this year on nuclear and missile tests, enough to solve its food shortage for at least two years, South Korean news reports said. Even though the north is reported to have earned about US$100 million through the sale of missile technologies, gunboats and multiple rocket artilleries in 2008, the gap is still huge. The additional income might come from another source: North Korea has apparently agreed to reverse-engineer and to mass-produce Russian-designed Kornet anti-tank guided missiles that it recently obtained from Syria. Syria will allegedly also be the buyer of these missiles.

However, in the last century we saw that another country tried to outspend its opponent only to find itself dissolved in the end.

Image: © Korea Times

No comments: