S Korea eyes deal to buy US mis­siles for Aegis de­stroy­ers

Gulf Times - - ASIA/AUSTRALASIA -

South Korea plans to buy dozens of US-built shipto-air mis­siles, in an order worth about $300mn, to boost air de­fences against North Korea, even as it moves to re­duce ten­sion with Py­ongyang, Seoul’s arms buy­ing agency said yes­ter­day.

Since 2013, South Korea has bought Stan­dard Mis­sile-2s, de­vel­oped by Raytheon Co, in in­stal­ments to equip three Aegis de­stroy­ers pre­par­ing to be de­ployed in the mid-2020s.

It aimed to ramp up the ca­pa­bil­ity to de­tect and track mis­siles from the North, as its neigh­bour de­vel­oped nu­clear pro­grammes ul­ti­mately tar­get­ing the United States in de­fi­ance of in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions. The lat­est mis­sile pur­chase de­ci­sion by a de­fence ac­qui­si­tion panel paves the way for de­liv­ery of the fi­nal batch, an of­fi­cial of South Korea’s De­fence Ac­qui­si­tion Pro­gram Ad­min­is­tra­tion (DAPA) said.

The of­fi­cial de­clined to state the num­ber of mis­siles, cit­ing se­cu­rity con­cerns, but said there would be “dozens”, with the to­tal order val­ued at about 340 bil­lion won ($304mn). The of­fi­cial de­clined to be iden­ti­fied be­cause he was not au­tho­rised to speak pub­licly about the deal.

In rec­on­cil­i­a­tion ef­forts this year, the neigh­bours clinched a com­pre­hen­sive mil­i­tary pact at a Septem­ber sum­mit in Py­ongyang, the North Korean cap­i­tal, that aimed to defuse mil­i­tary ten­sion over their heav­ily for­ti­fied bor­der. But the South has con­tin­ued to re­in­force air de­fences, de­cid­ing last month to buy two Is­raeli early warn­ing radar sys­tems. In Septem­ber, the US State Depart­ment ap­proved pos­si­ble mil­i­tary sales worth $2.6bn to South Korea, in­clud­ing six Boe­ing-made P-8A Po­sei­don mar­itime re­con­nais­sance air­craft and 64 Pa­triot anti-bal­lis­tic mis­sile weapons, made by Lock­heed Martin Co.

The reclu­sive North and the rich, demo­cratic South are tech­ni­cally still at war be­cause their 1950-53 con­flict ended in a truce, rather than a peace treaty. At a land­mark June sum­mit in Sin­ga­pore, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump pledged to work to­wards de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion, but the pact was sketchy and talks since have made lit­tle head­way.

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