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South Korea navy forms task force for missile defense

By Elizabeth Shim
South Korea navy forms task force for missile defense
South Korea's Navy Chief of Staff Adm. Um Hyun-seong visits an Aegis destroyer conducting an anti-ballistic missile drill in the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan. The navy is strengthening its ballistic missile defense capabilities. File Photo courtesy of Republic of Korea Navy/Yonhap

Oct. 18 (UPI) -- The South Korean navy is creating an organization within the military dedicated to countering North Korea missile strikes.

Local newspaper Segye Ilbo reported Wednesday Seoul is pursuing the new measures in response to escalating North Korea missile threats.

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Seoul's navy headquarters' informatization staff formed a team in June 2017, a month after South Korean President Moon Jae-in assumed office.

The team was restructured into a task force in September, and continues to sustain operations, according to the report.

"In order to effectively deal with the threat of North Korean missiles at the navy level, we are operating a task force inside navy headquarters," a South Korean navy official told the newspaper.

The task force may be jointly operating with an ongoing anti-ballistic missile operation also under the authority of Seoul's navy.

South Korea retains three Aegis destroyers with detection and tracking capabilities.

None of the destroyers have interceptor functions.

South Korea plans to deploy three next-generation Aegis destroyers by the mid-2020s that will be equipped with SM-3 anti-air warfare missiles.

South Korea's navy is undertaking the new measures at a time when the United States and NATO allies recently concluded a three-and-a-half week ballistic missile defense exercise.

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The exercises included the flight test of the SM-6 from destroyer McFaul, which has been modified to counter ballistic missiles in the terminal phase, according to the U.S. Naval Institute.

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