North Korea Reveals Rocket Launcher Capable of Hitting Many Parts of South Korea

John Kim, March 22, 2016, 7:42 a.m.

North Korea's new large caliber rocket launcher system has the range to strike large parts of South Korea, posing new security challenges for Seoul's military, observers said Tuesday. The assessment of security threats comes after Pyongyang's state-run Korean Central News Agency carried a report earlier in the day showing a photo of its leader Kim Jong-un being present at the final test-fire of a multiple rocket launching system (MLRS). It said the new system is ready for combat deployment.

The new weapon would help increase "the capability of the Korean People's Army (KPA) to mount a precision attack on the enemies' targets in the operational theater in the southern part of Korea," the news outlet claimed. The report did not specify the date of the test, but it may have been taken Monday when the isolationist country fired five short-range projectiles into the East Sea. South Korea's military has been tracking North Korea's tests of the newest multiple rocket launching system with a 300 millimeter caliber since the country was first seen test-firing it in mid-2013.

In October last year, the North showed off the system during a military parade to mark the anniversary of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea. Currently, North Korea has three types of the multiple launcher system actually used by combat troops, with the largest having a caliber of 240 mm. The forthcoming introduction of a larger-caliber launcher system into North Korea's arsenal would significantly enhance the country's attack capability.

The rockets fired near the northeastern city of Hamhung early this week flew some 200 kilometers, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This means they can easily fly over South Korea's capital of Seoul and even reach far down into the country, should they be fired near the inter-Korean border. Possible targets within this range include the headquarters of the military's three branches -- Army, Navy and Air Force -- in the central province of South Chungcheong, and the new base of the United States Forces Korea in Pyeongtaek.

In terms of warheads, these rockets could carry high-yield explosives or dual-purpose improved conventional munitions that, after being fired, burst into sub-munitions over the target area for anti-armor and antipersonnel attacks. South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Jeon Ha-kyu confirmed the Monday test-firing to be of a "large-caliber multiple rocket launching system as North Korea has announced." "North Korea has been continuing tests of it as part of performance upgrade efforts," the spokesman said. He said, "The military perceives the North Korean weapon as a threat and, based on that, we are preparing a readiness posture."

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