|This video footage released by North Korea's state-run Korean Central Television (KCTV) on July 26 shows a missile being launched from a site near the North's eastern coastal town of Wonsan the previous day. North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea, with its leader Kim Jong-un overseeing the launch. KCTV-Yonhap|
By Jung Da-min
South Korean and U.S. military officials confirmed Sunday that North Korea has successfully developed a new, more advanced ballistic missile that can defeat the South's missile defense system.
The officials referred to Pyongyang's July 25 test launches of two short-range missiles ― a modified version of Russia's Iskander ― that can fly horizontally after a rapid descent before heading vertically down to strike a target.
The so-called pull-up maneuver makes it difficult for the Korea Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) system to shoot it down, because KAMD is designed to shoot down an incoming missile in its terminal phase.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said Seoul and Washington concluded the two missiles were similar to Russia's Iskander, a ground-to-ground short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) that can carry various warheads including one that glides to evade defenses.
The JCS also altered their earlier announcement, saying the North's SRBMs both flew around 600 kilometers at an altitude of around 50 kilometers according to the latest analysis shared by Seoul and Washington. On July 25, the JCS estimated the first missile flew about 430 kilometers and the second, 690.
"As the North's state media report said, the latest launch involved a new pattern of flight which showed the pull-up maneuver (in the dive phase)," a JSC official said, explaining why the military had failed initially to track the first missile on radar.
Military experts said the "pull-up" maneuver deployed by the North gives their missiles unique trajectory possibilities, that could defeat the South's defense systems, currently configured around PAC-3 missiles, at low altitudes.
"The South's military has a shorter time to respond to missiles which fly with this kind of complicated trajectory at a low altitude," said Shin Jong-woo, a senior analyst at the Korea Defense and Security Forum. "To increase the possibility of an interception by the South's PAC-3s, they need to shoot more missiles at each target."
|This photo released by North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on July 26 shows a missile being launched from a site near the North's eastern coastal town of Wonsan the previous day. North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea, with its leader Kim Jong-un observing the launch. KCNA-Yonhap|
To counter possible attacks by North Korea, South Korea has deployed a three-axis defense system ― the Kill Chain pre-emptive strike system, the KAMD and the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation (KMPR) plan.
Among them, the KAMD focuses on intercepting missiles in their terminal phase at lower altitudes. Seoul is planning on deploying the Patriot PAC-3 MSE system, an upgraded version of PAC-3.
This latest system is expected to engage targets flying up to an altitude of 40 kilometers, while the currently used PAC-3 can only reach targets at altitudes between 15 kilometers and 20 kilometers.
Regarding these concerns, the JCS said the Patriot defense system can counter the North's missiles and it plans to deploy M-SAM (medium-range surface-to-air missile) Block II, used for intercepting ballistic missiles.
Meanwhile, the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) carried an article Friday on the country's "fire of new-type tactical guided weapon," saying this was to warn the South Korean military which has been introducing "offensive weapons" into South Korea and holding military exercises against the North.
President Moon Jae-in canceled his summer vacation Sunday to deal with the national security problem as well as diplomacy issues with Japan centered on a trade row.