South Korea’s Defense Ministry pledged on Friday to push for the rapid deployment of a counter-rocket system to repel threats of a possible North Korean salvo combining missiles and long-range artillery that would put the greater Seoul area within reach.
During a policy briefing to President Yoon Suk-yeol, Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup outlined the plan and other defense priorities, including resuming larger-scale field training between the South Korea and the United States and the acceleration of efforts to build the “three-axis” system against the North’s evolving nuclear and missile threats
The push for an artillery intercept system came amid lingering concerns over whether the South is fully prepared in case the North fires multiple rounds involving different missiles and artillery pieces.
“To respond to North Korea’s long-range artillery threats threatening the Seoul metropolitan area, we will expand detection and counterfire capabilities, and push for rapid deployment of a ‘long-range artillery interception,’ the ministry said. in a press release.
He added that the system will be “essential to respond effectively to a potential North Korean salvo of long-range missiles and artillery.”
South Korea is working to acquire the counter-rocket system, called Low Altitude Missile Defense (LAMD). The administration of the Defense Acquisition Program plans to complete its development by 2028, but Yoon has expressed a desire to roll it out in 2026.
In line with air defense efforts, the ministry stressed its determination to secure an “overwhelming” three-axis system.
It consists of the Kill Chain preemptive strike platform; Korea’s air and missile defense system; and Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation (KMPR), an operational plan to neutralize North Korean leaders in a major conflict.
For the Kill Chain part, the minister highlighted Seoul’s decision to secure military surveillance satellites and 20 additional F-35A anti-radar fighters – key assets for detecting enemy attacks and preemptive strikes in case of emergency. .
On the KMPR segment, he pledged to increase the number of “high-powered and super-precision” missiles and further strengthen the infiltration and strike capabilities of the country’s special warfare units.
During the briefing, the department also revealed its intention to resume combined field training programs at the regimental level or on a larger scale between the South and the United States, including carrier strike exercises. aircraft and an amphibious landing formation.
These trainings were suspended in 2018 due to efforts by the then Moon Jae-in administration to facilitate diplomacy with Pyongyang.
“(The ministry) will work to fundamentally strengthen the combined defense posture of South Korea and the United States by normalizing allied exercises and training that had been canceled, delayed or reduced and adjusted,” the ministry said.
The ministry also unveiled the new name for the allied summer training scheduled for August 22-September 22. 1 — Ulchi Freedom Shield (UFS).
The UFS consists of computer simulation-based command post training, field maneuvers and civilian Ulchi emergency drills — a make-up amounting to a revival of the Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills abolished in 2018.
As part of efforts to bolster allied exercises, the South and the United States plan to hold 11 combined field training sessions between August and September, including a brigade-level program at the center of Korean army combat training in Inje, about 120 kilometers east of Seoul.
The rare unveiling of such detailed combined training programs appears to reflect allies’ determination to bolster deterrence against North Korean threats.
Yoon asked the minister to conduct “thorough” exercises and training, including standardizing field maneuvers, and organize UFS training substantially, his spokesman Kang In-sun told reporters.
“He also called for making every effort to form a tight and effective missile defense system against North Korea’s nuclear threats,” she said.
The ministry also stressed its determination to develop an army based on cutting-edge technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), which is at the center of the armed forces’ efforts to build a combat structure using both manned and uninhabited.
In line with these efforts, the ministry plans to launch the defense AI center by 2024.
In cooperation with local universities, the ministry also plans to train around 1,000 AI specialists over the next five years.
On the education segment, the ministry said it plans to step up its efforts to ensure troops are clear about who the “enemy” is – in apparent reference to North Korea’s continuing security concerns .
Yoon called for full commitment to the AI curriculum and strengthening digital and cyber education in military academies and institutions, according to his spokesperson.
He also asked the minister to help him fulfill his election promise to raise the soldiers’ monthly salary to 2 million won ($1,522) and strive to develop the defense industry into a ‘key export,’ Kang said. (Yonhap)