Recovered North Korean missile dates to the 1960s
The missile that Pyongyang shot over the inter-Korean maritime border last week appears to have been developed by the Soviets in the 1960s.
South Korean military authorities on Wednesday put on public display the remains of the missile, which they collected over the weekend in the East Sea, days after the North fired it over the Northern Limit Line (NLL).
Pyongyang fired yet another ballistic missile into the East Sea at around 3:31 p.m. on Wednesday. Local authorities said analysis of that launch was ongoing.
The missile that the South retrieved in the East Sea was among three short-range ballistic missiles Pyongyang fired on the morning of Nov. 2 from Wonsan, Kangwon Province. One of those missiles landed in international waters south of the NLL, the first time that a North Korean ballistic missile flew south of the de-facto inter-Korean maritime border.
South Korea’s military said the missile landed 26 kilometers (16 miles) south of the NLL, 57 kilometers east of Sokcho and 167 kilometers southwest of Ulleung Island. At the time, residents of Ulleung were urged to take shelter underground.
The South Korean Navy’s Gwangyang salvage and rescue ship combed the waters from Friday through Sunday using unmanned underwater robots and finally retrieved the debris from nearly 1.7 kilometers under the surface on Sunday, local military officials told reporters Wednesday.
The debris, which was 3 meters in length and 2 meters in width, included the missile’s four main wings, liquid fuel tank, engine and nozzle, according to an early analysis from the Agency for Defense Development.
Russian words were written on the debris. Korean words were not.
South Korean military officials said the missile seems to be an SA-5 surface-to-air missile, or an S-200 as the Soviets called them, which was first used in 1966.
The North is believed to have imported it from the Soviet Union in 1987.
A local military source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the missile was fired at a low angle, which shows that the North intentionally fired it across the NLL.
While last week’s missile flew about 190 kilometers, South Korean military authorities believe it’s capable of flying 300 kilometers when fired from a proper angle.
But the missile is outmoded and lacks precision, Seoul military officials said, which indicates that the North might have fired an outdated missile at the South on purpose to prevent leaking information about its more advanced missiles.
“Missile remains normally come in handy to analyze the technological advancement of the country that fired it,” said Kwon Yong-soo, a former professor at the Korea National Defense University.
“With the case of SA-5, it’s just not worth it.”
A South Korean government source who spoke to the JoongAng Ilbo on the condition of anonymity said Pyongyang might have fired the outdated missile to save maintenance costs.
“Once [a country] starts to mass produce missiles capable of carrying tactical nuclear weapons, they need to burn out their stocks of old missiles to save on maintenance,” said the source.
“So there’s a high chance that the North would fire a combination of these old and new missiles to raise tensions on the Korean Peninsula.”
BY KIM SANG-JIN, LEE SUNG-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]