South Korea seeks to strengthen its low-altitude missile defense
The Korean army is reportedly eyeing the adoption of a U.S.-designed missile defense system, called the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense or THAAD, that could strike medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in mid-air during their terminal phase.
The plan falls in line with the government's efforts to build a multi-layered missile shield against North Korean attacks, in addition to a push to create its own defense system, the Korea Air and Missile Defense or KAMD, which now targets low-flying missiles.
The government is focusing on upgrading the country's current PAC-2 missiles imported from Germany to U.S.-made PAC-3 system in its development of the KAMD.
The defense ministry said on Tuesday it is mulling over plans to bring in an additional missile defense system for altitudes below 1-hundred kilometers, to strengthen its lower-tier defenses.
THAAD missiles can reach an altitude of 40 to 1-hundred-50 kilometers.
However, the plan is likely going to be met with criticism by those who believe that South Korea may eventually join Washington's Missile Defense system, since THAAD is a key part of it.
There has been speculation that the U.S., as part of its strategic rebalance toward Asia, wants Seoul to become part of its regional defense system in return for the postponement in the scheduled transfer of wartime operational control to South Korea in 2015.
The cost of adopting the system is another problem.
The ministry currently plans to bring in TWO THAAD systems, which would come with a price tag of more than two trillion won, or 1.9 billion U.S. dollars.
Eoh Jin-joo, Arirang News.
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