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Friday, March 16, 2007

Ballistic Missile Defense: South Korea seeking Patriots


South Korea is going to take BMD into its own hands, as reported here:
South Korea's groundbreaking efforts to develop a ballistic missile defense strategy based on its unique security challenges and its limited resources took a novel turn this week: The Seoul government started negotiations with Germany to buy second-hand, U.S.-built Patriot anti-ballistic missile interceptors.

The Korea Times reported Tuesday that senior South Korean and Germany defense officials had that same day initiated three days of discussions focused on Seoul's efforts to buy second-hand, U.S.-built Patriot interceptors from Berlin and boost bilateral cooperation. The newspaper cited the South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration, or DAPA, as its source.

"High on the agenda is Seoul's purchase of second-hand Patriot anti-missile systems from the European country," the newspaper said, quoting DAPA officials.

U.S. defense contractors were no doubt disappointed that South Korea has not proved a lucrative market for new patriot PAC-3s, as neighboring Japan has been. But they were hardly surprised. As we have reported in these columns in December, South Korean leader have made far-reaching strategic decision to pursue relatively extensive BMD capabilities against the potential threat from neighboring North Korea, but they are trying to keep their expenditures reined in.
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As we have previously noted Seoul, with a population of 14 million, or around a quarter the population of South Korea, is within range of at least 11,000 short-range missiles and artillery tubes of the North Korean Army deployed on the other side of the Demilitarized Zone. Therefore focusing on low-level anti-ballistic missile interceptor batteries like the Patriot, rather than opting for more higher-altitude interception systems such as the GBIs, the SM-3s, THAAD or even Israel's Arrow interceptor, makes sense for South Korean planners.

In fact, South Korea already deploys some SM-2 Block IIIA interceptors on its own U.S.-built Aegis class destroyers.

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