SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea showed off on Tuesday new missiles designed to target North Korea’s artillery and long-range missiles and vowed to boost deterrence against its unpredictable neighbour.
The ballistic Hyeonmu-2, with a range of 300 km (190 miles), and the Hyeonmu-3, a cruise missile with a range of more than 1,000 km (620 miles) were put on public display for the first time in a rare South Korean military parade.
Both of the indigenously developed missiles have been deployed. They were unveiled in February after the North conducted its third nuclear test in defiance of international warnings, two months after it successfully launched a long-range rocket and put an object into space.
“We must build a strong anti-North deterrence until the day the North drops its nuclear arms and makes the right choice for its people and for peace on the Korean peninsula,” South Korean President Park Geun-hye said at the parade marking the founding of the South’s armed forces 65 years ago.
Visiting U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel watched the parade from a podium at a military airfield south of the capital, Seoul.
Hagel, on a four-day visit to the staunch U.S. ally, visited the heavily fortified Korean border on Monday and said there was no plan to cut the number of U.S. troops stationed in the South from 28,500.
The North’s rocket launch in December was widely seen as a test of long-range missile technology. The North said it was putting up a satellite for peaceful purposes.
The launch and the February nuclear test led to tougher U.N. sanctions aimed at stopping the North’s arms development and trade. The sanctions angered the North and it responded with threats of a nuclear strike on South Korea and the United States.
North Korea, which is much poorer than the South, has invested heavily in weapons of mass destruction.
The South has a modern conventional military superior to the North’s army, which relies on largely obsolete equipment, but is barred under agreements with the United States and by international conventions from developing nuclear arms or longer-range missiles.
South Korea reached a deal last year with the United States to extend the range of its missiles to better counter the threat from the North, securing the right to develop ballistic missiles with a range of up to 800 km (500 miles).
Unlike North Korea which often stages large-scale military parades, South Korea rarely puts on large, public displays of its military. Tuesday’s parade was the biggest in 10 years.
North and South Korea remain technically at war under a truce that brought a halt to the 1950-53 Korean War.