South Korea has conducted its first live-fire drill for an advanced air-launched cruise missile it says will strengthen its pre-emptive strike capability against North Korea in the event of crisis.
South Korea’s military said the Taurus missile fired from an F-15 fighter jet travelled through obstacles at low altitudes before hitting a target off the country’s western coast.
The missile, manufactured by Germany’s Taurus Systems, has a maximum range of 500km (310 miles) and is equipped with stealth characteristics that will allow it to avoid radar detection before hitting North Korean targets, according to Seoul’s Defence Ministry.
South Korea has been accelerating efforts to ramp up its military capabilities in face of a torrent of nuclear weapons tests by North Korea, which on September 3 conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test to date.
Shortly after the nuke test, Seoul announced it reached an agreement with Washington to remove the warhead weight limits on South Korean ballistic missiles, which under a bilateral guideline could be built for a maximum range of 800km (497 miles).
A pre-emptive strike against Pyongyang’s leadership would be difficult to undertake, but it is widely seen as the most realistic of the limited military options Seoul has to deny a nuclear attack from its rival.
The North said its latest nuclear test was a detonation of a thermonuclear weapon built for its developmental intercontinental ballistic missiles that were flight tested twice in July.
The country is also developing solid-fuel missiles that could be fired from land mobile launchers or submarines. It flew a powerful new mid-range missile over northern Japan last month while declaring more missile tests targeting the Pacific Ocean.