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North Korea missile could reach South in 'tens of minutes,' Seoul says

By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |   Jan. 7, 2016 at 3:00 PM
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An exclusive report putting perspective on the week's most important developments.

SEOUL, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- A North Korea missile aimed at the South would only take "tens of minutes" to reach its target, South Korea's defense minister said Thursday.

Han Min-koo told South Korea's parliamentary Defense Committee that a Pyongyang missile would take well under an hour to reach South Korea, Yonhap reported.

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The defense minister was most likely referring to a missile equipped with nuclear weapons that could travel without being detected by U.S.-South Korea radar.

North Korea weapons that pose the gravest threat to the South are Pyongyang's Scud missiles, with a range of 190-310 miles, as well as the Rodong missile that can reach a distance of up to 745 miles. North Korea submarine-launched ballistic missiles also pose risks.

Pyongyang's ballistic missiles of the Scud series are the most potent. Nuclear warheads can weigh between 1,500 and 2,200 pounds, but if North Korea is able to miniaturize the weapon to weigh between 1,300 and 1,500 pounds, the warhead can then be mounted on a Scud.

South Korea military previously has estimated a Scud missile launched in an area south of Pyongyang would take 4-5 minutes to reach South Korean airspace. Conversely, South Korea ballistic missiles with a range of 500 miles are capable of reaching North Korea airspace in less than 15 minutes, South Korea press reported.

North Korea also retains 300mm rocket launchers and a KN class of short-range missiles, but the latter are not yet developed enough to mount a nuclear warhead.

Television network KBS reported South Korea's "Kill Chain" pre-emptive strike system is in the spotlight following North Korea's recent announcement of a hydrogen bomb test.

The system, however, is not yet ready to deal with SLBMs. In the case of a North Korea SLBM launch, real-time tracking of the weapon would be difficult, even if anti-submarine helicopters and maritime patrol aircraft were deployed, KBS reported.

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