South Korean officials have reported the testing of new missiles that could reach any target across North Korea. In a rare move, President Park Geun-hye attended the launch in person.
South Korea confirmed the test-launch of a new generation of ballistic missiles, following a new agreement with the United States that would allow Seoul to considerably extend its weapons' range.
During a visit to a missile base, South Korean President Park Geun-hye personally observed the launch of a guided test missile. Her office declared that the development of this new missile technology was key to strengthening South Korea's defenses against the North's growing nuclear threat.
"The test demonstrated improved ballistic missile capability that can strike all parts of North Korea swiftly, and with precision, in the event of armed aggression or provocation," the presidential Blue House said.
An anonymous source confirmed the capabilities of the new missile system with the AFP news agency: "The military tested two home-developed, long-range missiles that could hit any target in North Korea."
The test launch came after North Korea reported last month that it had test-fired a ballistic missile from a submarine (SLBM), and that it was developing further nuclear weapons with intercontinental reach. But military experts have questioned the authenticity of the North's report, stating that it should take the cash-strapped country much longer to achieve such a level of sophistication.
Fully developed SLBM facilities in North Korea would allow the deployment of nuclear weapons far beyond the Korean peninsula, giving the country the potential to retaliate in the event of a nuclear attack from sources beyond the Korean peninsula. Pyongyang had also claimed recently to have miniaturized a nuclear warhead to fit on high-precision, long-range rockets.
South Korea had conducted a series of similar missile tests of shorter ranges in April 2014. The new set of missiles was reported as the first developed under new guidelines signed with the United States in 2012 to double the range of its arsenal. However, a previous missile pact with the US still limits South Korea's nuclear capabilities to civil atomic energy only.
North Korea continues to be placed under heavy sanctions for its missile and nuclear tests, and the ongoing threat it poses on the South. Some 28,500 US troops are stationed in South Korea to defend the country in case of attack, including the threat of nuclear warfare.
ss/kms (Reuters, AFP)