Yonhap News Agency, June 4, 2009
Korea to buy 84 missile interceptors
South Korea is moving to acquire additional advanced ship-to-air missile interceptors from the United States by the end of this year to boost the firepower of its destroyers guarding against potential North Korean hostilities, an official said Wednesday.
The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement that the sale of 84 SM-2 missiles has yet to be approved, but would enhance South Korea’s “defensive capabilities and increase interoperability with U.S. and multinational forces.”
The missiles can be used to intercept rockets that threaten its warships as well as to attack high-speed enemy aircraft. They can also be fired at small naval targets.
South Korea is one of the top buyers of U.S. arms. About 28,500 U.S. troops are also stationed in South Korea as a deterrent against the North.
“We made the request late last year,” an official at the Seoul-based Defense Acquisition Program Administration said. “The missiles could be used to reinforce our destroyers, mainly Sejong the Great.”
The ship is South Korea’s only Aegis combat destroyer and led the country’s surveillance efforts in the East Sea when North Korea launched its long-range rocket on April 5. Its radars can detect objects about 1,000 km (621 miles) away, and the destroyer can shoot down targets within a radius of 150 km.
“We hope the deal will be completed by the end of this year,” the South Korean official said, declining to be identified, citing government policy.