SEOUL — As a warning against future North Korean provocations, South Korea has announced it has developed a cruise missile capable of immediately striking anywhere within the communist country.
Thursday’s announcement of the longer-range missile came six days after North Korea’s failed attempt to launch a rocket it says was designed to send a satellite into space. The United States and South Korea believe the launch was a cover to test a long-range missile that could eventually strike the continental U.S.
The new missile has a range of about 1,000 kilometers, approximately 625 miles, Maj. Gen. Shin Won-sik, in charge of policy planning at the Ministry of National Defense, said during a news conference Thursday. He would not release further details.
Officials wanted to “set our people at ease” with the announcement and generate confidence about South Korea’s ability to respond to potential future North Korean attacks, a defense ministry spokesman said Friday, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.
“We are consistently preparing to defend ourselves against North Korean missile threats and provocations,” he said.
A second defense ministry official said Friday that new missiles already have been deployed within South Korea, but would not specify how many or where.
Two days after its failed launch, the North unveiled another missile during centenary celebrations of the birthday of the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung. Additionally, South Korean satellite photos show the digging of a tunnel that could indicate preparations for a nuclear test, according to defense officials. Two previous nuclear tests — in 2006 and 2009 — were conducted shortly after North Korean missile launches.
In a rare admission of failure, the North has acknowledged to its people and to the outside world that the April 13 launch was unsuccessful.
According to The Associated Press, North Korea released a statement Thursday that it had determined the cause of the rocket failure, though officials did not specify what caused the rocket to explode within two minutes of liftoff. The statement also said the North plans to continue with its space development program.
The United Nations has condemned the attempted launch and has moved to place further sanctions on the country.
During a visit to Seoul this week, Adm. Samuel Locklear, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, called the botched launch a “fairly catastrophic failure” and said it “would certainly cause me to question their competency in advanced missile technology.”