SEOUL — South Korea plans to deploy Israeli-made precision guided missiles near its tense sea border with North Korea next month, including an island shelled by the North in 2010, a report said Jan. 18.
The South will deploy 50 to 60 Spike anti-tank missiles to two border islands on the Yellow Sea to guard against potential attacks from the North, the Chosun Ilbo daily cited a Seoul military official as saying. The two islands are Baengnyeong, the closest island to the disputed maritime border, and Yeonpyeong, which was shelled by the North in November 2010 in an attack that left four South Koreans, including two civilians, dead.
“Work to fix some technical problems found in past test-fire sessions have almost been completed,” Chosun quoted the official as saying. “There is no problem in deploying them (the missiles) by the end of next month.”
The South’s defense ministry spokesman declined to confirm the report.
The shelling of Yeonpyeong — the first attack on civilians since the1950-1953 Korean War — sparked brief fears of an all-out conflict and sent cross-border ties into a tailspin. The South’s military has since strengthened troops and weaponry at five frontier islands off the west coast — a constant flash point and scene of bloody naval clashes in 1999, 2002 and 2009.
Seoul’s military authorities reached a deal in 2011 to buy the Spike missiles developed by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense System. The missile — using global positioning system technology and with a range of 25 kilometers (15 miles) — is reportedly capable of hitting North Korean artillery hidden in mountain caves.