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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Hyunmoo IV / KSR Mid-Range Ballistic Missile

On 13 February 2013, the MND stated "We will accelerate the process of developing an 800km ballistic missile, which puts the entire North Korea within its range, based on the new missile guidance" and re-emphasized its plan to field this new ballistic missile as soon as possible. In the past, South Korea never had to develop its own ballistic and aerodynamic missiles systems because of the U.S.'s security commitment to the Korean Peninsula. The ROK relied heavily on US-controlled missiles deployed on the peninsula to offset the missile threat of the DPRK. The South Korean military thus believed that it had more significant military priorities than advanced missile programs.

In November 1996, Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Pak Chae-yun revealed a blueprint for South Korea's space industry that would make the ROK a hub of industry in East Asia by 2015. 5 If these plans come into being, South Korea will almost certainly become capable of producing booster rockets, and thus, ICBMs. There was no evidence in the literature suggesting, however, that the ROK has any plans for the latter. South Korea did not then possess the capability to indigenously produce state-of-the-art ballistic missiles, or space launch rockets that can be converted into Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. It appeared that South Korea's past reliance on U.S. military assistance, and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the US and ROK in 1979, has retarded South Korea's capability to produce aerodynamic and ballistic missiles without outside assistance.

The ROK successfully launched its first ever scientific research rocket, the KSR-1 in 1993. The rocket was 6.7 meters in length, had a single stage, and could reach an altitude of 75 km. 11 Jane's Strategic Weapons Systems states that ROK could modify the KSR-1 to a ballistic missile to carry a 200 kg payload a range of 150 km.

On July 10, 1997, the ROK test launched its first independently developed science rocket, the KSR-2. According to reports from The Korea Herald, the rocket is 11.1 meters in length, has two launch stages, and weighs approximately two tons. On its initial test flight, the rocket carried a 150 kg scientific observation unit to an altitude of 151.5 km. Although the South Koreans had not given any indication that they will convert the KSR-2 into a ballistic missile, Jane's Strategic Weapons Systems notes that, "unconfirmed reports suggest that a secondary use might be for a series of ballistic missiles with ranges from 100 to 900 km." The KSR-3 was flight tested in 2002, and reportedly has a range of 350 km.

South Korea has successfully test-fired a new ballistic missile capable of delivering a payload of one ton to any part of North Korea, the country’s defense ministry said 04 April 2014. “We test-fired it and we succeeded,” Kim Min-seok, spokesman for the South Korean Defense Ministry, is cited as saying by Reuters. The new missile’s range of 500 kilometers sees a significant boost to the South’s strike capability. The new missiles will enable strikes against the weapons and military installations in the furthest parts of North Korea from any location in the South if necessary, Kim stressed.

“And we’re going to make 800-kilometer missiles,” the spokesman added, emphasizing Seoul’s intention to take maximum advantage of the 2012 deal. The test-launch was carried out on March 23, just two days ahead of North Korea testing two medium-range ballistic missiles capable of striking targets in Japan. The military was expected to commission the new missile into service in 2015, a defense ministry source told the Chosun Ilbo newspaper. The 500 kilometer range was still shorter than North Korea’s major ballistic missiles, but the South’s rocket is a lot more accurate. Its hit radius is just a few dozen meters, while the Scud and Rodong missiles recently tested by Pyongyang have an accuracy ranging from several hundreds meters to a kilometer, the paper stressed.

South Korea said that it conducted two launches in April 2020 with a new ballistic missile model with a range and load capacity greater than any other carrier currently in service. The South Korean military currently deploys the Hyunmoo-2A, with a range of 186 miles, and the Hyunmoo-2B, with a range of 311 miles. The Hyunmoo-2A can be equipped with a 2-ton warhead, and the Hyunmoo-2B can carry a 1-ton warhead.

The new missile is presumed to have a range of up to 800 kilometers and be capable of carrying a 2-ton payload. Its development began following the adoption of revised missile guidelines in 2017 to remove payload restrictions on South Korea's ballistic missiles. According to government sources, the tests were held at the Anheung shooting range, on the west coast of the country, with two launches of the Hyunmoo-4 by the Defense Research Agency. One of the two attempts failed. The fourth version of the Hyunmoo is estimated to have a range of up to 800 km and a load capacity of two tons. South Koreans began developing the weapon system in 2017 following the ratification between South Korea and the United States of a new missile guidelines that lifted restrictions on carrying capacity.

The Hyunmoo-4 is a direct follow-on to the Hyunmoo-2 that entered service in 2011, but all the limits of the previous USA-South Korea agreements have been removed. The warhead thus rises from 500 kg to almost two tons making it perfect to penetrate and destroy underground complexes, fortifications, etc. It is a fundamental and unique weapon for Korea that can have deep attack capabilities and above all against bunkered targets with good precision.

The Hyunmoo-4 has a 500-mile range and capable of carrying a 2-ton warhead. The larger payload (2-ton warhead) of the Hyunmoo-4 may allow for the accommodation of an earth-penetrating conventional warhead, which could hold North Korean leadership targets at risk at several underground facilities around the country. North Korea has scores of military underground facilities scattered across its mountainous terrain.

The possibility of intervention and above all of deterrence of Seoul is therefore widened not only against North Korea but also against other Asian actors by virtue of the easing of US ties. Relations with China have progressively worsened primarily due to the deployment of American THAAD missile batteries and secundis linked to the increasingly high possibility that Chinese expansionism at sea could lead to a direct face-to-face (as already happened on 7 October 2016).

According to a survey conducted in 2014 by the BBC World Service, South Korea is after China the second country in the world of which the Japanese have the most negative perception. Outcome reciprocated by the South Koreans with a strong anti-Japanese sentiment linked mainly to the Japanese occupation between 1910 and 1945 and to the historical Japanese revisionism in the post-war period.

President Moon Jae-in congratulated researchers 23 July 2020 today on the development of a new ballistic missile whose payload capacity is among the highest in the world. He was speaking while on a visit to the Agency for Defense Development on to inspect state-of-the-art weapons and encourage officials there as the agency marks 50 years since its launch. His remarks are likely in reference to the Hyunmoo-4 -- which is presumed to have a range of up to 800 kilometers and be capable of carrying a warhead weighing up to two tons.

"This is a security matter, so I can't talk about it freely in front of the camera, but I want to congratulate you on the development of a ballistic missile with one of the world's largest payload capacities."

Development of the missile began after South Korea and the U.S. agreed in 2017 to remove the restrictions on payload weight for South Korea's ballistic missiles. The agency test-launched the missile earlier in 2020. Moon also weclomed the successful development of a homegrown radar system for use on South Korea's KF-X fighter jet projects. The president vowed continued support and investment for the defense industry for self-defense and peace.

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Page last modified: 06-07-2021 16:30:44 ZULU