SEOUL • South Korea's military plans to develop a "Frankenmissile" to counter North Korea's escalating missile and nuclear capabilities, in a bid to overwhelm the North during the initial phase of a war.
In its report to an annual parliamentary audit by the National Assembly's Defence Committee, the army said it would develop the Hyunmoo IV surface-to-surface missile, powerful enough to destroy North Korea's underground military facilities and command centre.
Combined with indigenous tactical surface-to-surface missiles and Hyunmoo-class intermediate-range ballistic missiles, the advanced pre-emptive strike capability would inflict "unbearable cost" on the North by neutralising its nuclear and missile sites, as well as long-range artillery units, the army said.
"We would use those three types of missiles as the first salvo of the missile strike and concentrate them during the initial phase of war to destroy North Korea's long-range artillery units and missiles located in ballistic missile operating areas," the army said on Thursday.
South Korea has been suspected of working on advancing its ballistic missile capability since it struck a deal with the US to scrap limits on the missiles' payload last month. Previously, Seoul was banned from fitting warheads weighing more than 500kg on its ballistic missiles with a range of over 800km.
The development of such an advanced ballistic missile is a part of the army's effort to establish a "game-changing" operational concept, which is designed to minimise civilian casualties and end the war as soon as possible, the army said.
The "five-pillar" concept calls for the military to develop a high-precision powerful missile, establish agile manoeuvre corps, build units using drones and robots, develop an advanced battle system and create a special warfare brigade for "deception strikes" against North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un.
South Korea's Marine Corps, for its part, announced a plan to establish a new command dedicated to protecting border islands, pledging to defend the sea border against North Korea's potential attacks and infiltration attempts.
During the parliamentary audit, the Marine Corps said the new command will be built around 2020 and based on the current North-western Island Defence Command. It was formed in 2011 following North Korea's artillery attack on Yeongpyeong, one of the farmost islands in the West Sea.
"The Marine Corps will seek to expand the command into a new defence command for strategic islands," said Marine Corps commander Jun Jin Goo. "We will seek to establish a unified command structure for strategic islands in the West, East and South seas."
The Marine Corps said it would establish a unit to defend Dokdo, a set of islets in the East Sea or Sea of Japan that have been the subject of a territorial dispute with Japan. It seeks to build the unit by 2020.
The announcement came amid North Korea's increasing threat against South Korea's border areas. In August, Pyongyang revealed its military training designed to seize the island of Yeongpyeong and its nearby island of Baengnyeong.
Some lawmakers voiced concerns that if North Korea feels confident about its nuclear and missile advantage against South Korea, it might try to forcefully occupy those near-border islands.
Last week, South Korean Defence Minister Song Young Moo acknowledged that it is a plausible scenario.
Asked about those eventualities, South Korean navy chief Um Hyung Sung on Thursday pledged a strong response, saying the military would treat the North's occupation attempt as an "all-out war situation".
"In the event of the enemy's provocations, front-line units can't afford to judge whether this is a localised skirmish or an all-out war. We will retaliate as if it is an all-out war," he told lawmakers.
THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK