SEOUL, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- South Korea's military is to mull the development of its own nuclear-powered submarine against what it calls the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s nuclear and missile threats, local media reported on Tuesday.
Government officials and ruling Saenuri Party members held a meeting to enhance the country's defense capability against the DPRK's nuclear threat, where the party strongly asked the government to push for the development of its own submarine propelled by nuclear power.
An unidentified defense ministry official was quoted as saying at the meeting that the military would carefully weigh the call in consideration of military effectiveness, technical availability and military situations in neighboring countries.
Calls here for introducing its own nuclear-powered submarine emerged after the DPRK showed an advance in its technology of submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).
Pyongyang test-fired a ballistic missile from a submarine off its east coast on Aug. 24, traveling some 500 km toward Japan. The flight distance surpassed the 300 km which Seoul's military regards as a success.
Top DPRK leader Kim Jong Un has reportedly ordered to build a couple of 3,000-ton submarines capable of carrying and launching ballistic missiles.
A completed SLBM technology would raise the DPRK's nuclear threat to a new level as it is very hard to detect and track a DPRK missile from a submarine moving secretly deep under the waters.
Even if South Korea successfully secures its nuclear-powered submarine, uncertainties would remain about its military effectiveness.
The South Korean submarine will be required to wait inside waters 10-20 km away from the DPRK's submarine base in order to strike its enemy submarine before it submerges into deep waters. Such submarine, which stays in waters of that distance, would be attacked easily by DPRK forces.
Time and costs would be needed to build a nuclear submarine. Military experts estimated it would take around 6-7 years to develop and deploy a submarine propelled by nuclear power, while about 1.5 trillion won (1.3 billion U.S. dollars) would be required to construct a nuclear submarine.
The most fundamental difficulty facing South Korea is to secure nuclear material necessary for a nuclear reactor that propels the nuclear submarine.
The U.S.-South Korea civil nuclear pact bans Seoul from enriching uranium for military purpose. The miniaturized reactor inside a submarine requires uranium enriched at least 20 percent.
Seoul's defense ministry official was quoted as saying that the use of nuclear material for nuclear-powered submarine will not be in violation of pacts with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), indicating Seoul's nuclear pact with Washington would be a sole obstacle.
Seoul's push for developing a nuclear submarine may trigger Japan's demand for its nuclear armament, brining nuclear arms race to the region. Japan has been reprocessing spent nuclear fuels and accumulating massive nuclear materials necessary for nuclear development.
Meanwhile, the government and the ruling party agreed to speed up the development of the Korea Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) and the Kill Chain systems as well as the Korea Massive Punishment Retaliation (KMPR) system.
The previous goal of completing the three systems by the mid-2020s was brought forward to the early 2020s, according to the agreement.
The KAMD is a project to develop its indigenous missile defense system to shoot down incoming DPRK missiles at multiple layers. The project includes the development of interceptors, including medium-range surface-to-air missiles (M-SAM) and long-range surface-to-air missiles (L-SAM) that can shoot down missiles at an altitude of less than 100 km.
The Kill Chain project aims to preemptively strike the DPRK's missile launch sites when signs of first strike are detected. The KMPR is a system to preemptively strike the DPRK's leadership and headquarters with massive missile attacks when Pyongyang's first strike signs are spotted.