SEOUL » Amid rising military threats from North Korea, South Korea conducted its own recent missile test, successfully launching a newly developed ballistic missile capable of striking most of North Korea, the South Korean Ministry of National Defense announced Friday.
The new missile, with a range of 310 miles and able to carry a warhead of up to 2,200 pounds, was launched on March 23 from a test site in Taean, a coastal town southwest of Seoul.
The test came a day after North Korea raised tensions by test-firing 30 short-range rockets off its east coast on March 22. Kim Min-seok, a spokesman for the South Korean Defense Ministry, declined to say when South Korea planned to deploy the new missile.
South Korea has been developing new missiles since Washington and Seoul revised their defense treaty in 2012 to allow it to extend the range of its ballistic missiles to cope better with North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs.
Pyongyang has rekindled regional tensions in recent weeks by launching a series of short- and medium-range rockets and missiles and threatening to conduct a new nuclear test. On Monday, the two Koreas exchanged artillery shells across a disputed western sea border.
On Friday, Kim said that South Korea had reached a tentative conclusion that two drones recently discovered in South Korea were flown from North Korea. A small surveillance drone crash-landed in Paju, a town north of Seoul, on March 24, and another was discovered Monday on a South Korean island near the western waters where the two militaries exchanged artillery fire.
From the memory chip of a digital camera mounted on the first drone, South Korean officials retrieved 193 aerial photos. But the quality of the pictures was poorer than aerial photos available on Google Earth, and the drone lacked equipment to transmit them wirelessly, officials here said.
Kim said that the two drones, though primitive, showed that North Korea was developing smaller drones in addition to a "fairly large" fleet of bigger unmanned aerial craft. In Parliament on Friday, South Korea’s defense minister Kim Kwan-jin said that North Korea might try to develop the surveillance drones into small and hard-to-detect "suicide bombers."