The Republic of Korea (South Korea) is not a nuclear-weapon state (NWS) under the terms of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Currently, there are five nations considered to be an NWS, while three more have conducted nuclear tests including India, and Pakistan, and North Korea. The notion that the latter has nuclear weapons has long clearly been a concern to its neighbor to the south, the Republic of Korea, or South Korea.
Seoul has relied on nuclear power as a major source of power throughout the country, and it provides some 29 percent of the nation’s total electricity. Yet, South Korea hasn’t attempted to enter the exclusive club of nuclear weapons states. Instead, it has largely championed a unique form of non-nuclear deterrence, and now the country is reported to be developing a missile that could be as powerful as an actual nuclear weapon.
It was in May that South Korean and U.S. leaders had announced the termination of missile guidelines that were imposed on Seoul back in the late 1970s as part of a deal that allowed South Korea to develop its own missiles that were limited to a range of 180 kilometers and had a maximum payload of 500 kilograms. As the country had faced threats from North Korea, the guidelines were revised four times, which included greater range missiles.
“We will develop stronger, longer-range and more precise missiles so as to exercise deterrence and achieve security and peace on the Korean Peninsula,” the South Korean government said in a statement this week, and it appears it is already living up to that commitment, as Seoul’s recent defense blueprint for 2022 to 2026 calls for the development of new missiles with “significantly enhanced destructive power,” as well as upgraded missile defense systems and deployment of new interceptors to counter North Korea’s long-range artillery.
Arms Race With North Korea
According to a report from The Korean Herald, South Korea has been working on a massive ballistic missile that could have the power of a tactical nuclear weapon. The surface-to-surface missile can reportedly carry a warhead of up to three tons with a flight range of 350-400 kilometers. It was designed to destroy underground missile facilities and bases and could penetrate underground tunnels to effectively nullify nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) ahead of their launches.
The range of the South Korean missile is great enough that it could reach all areas of North Korea from around the inter-Korean border. The new ballistic missile could be in operation before 2026.
The plans for this new ballistic missile follow the successful development of South Korea’s Hyunmoo-4 missile, which has a reported range of up to 800 kilometers. It is capable of carrying a warhead that weighs as much as two tons.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.