SEOUL, June 3 (Korea Bizwire) – South Korea needs to build a nuclear-powered submarine to better counter North Korea’s possible nuclear and missile attacks, an expert at Seoul’s state-run think tank said Friday.
With the new atomic energy pact reached between South Korea and the United States in 2015, the last restrictions to building a nuclear-powered sub have been removed, claimed Boo Hyeong-wook, a chief research fellow at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses (KIDA). The pact permits Seoul to make low-enriched uranium with U.S. consent that can be used as fuel.
“The possession of a nuclear-powered submarine will allow us to better counter North Korea’s possible nuclear and missile attacks,” Boo said at a seminar held on a warship anchored at the country’s southern resort island of Jeju. Nuclear-powered subs have far greater range and can effectively stay submerged as long as they have nuclear fuel and food.
South Korea is seeking to build nine 3,000-ton submarines in three batches as part of its so-called Jangbogo-III project. The move is aimed at building submarines with local technology that can better meet the country’s future defense needs.
The South Korean military said it plans to build the first batch of three submarines from 2020 to 2024, and the second batch of another three submarines with improved capabilities from 2025 to 2027. It has yet to finalize the details of the plan to build the last batch of subs.
Boo speculated that last year’s bilateral energy pact with Washington should enable Seoul to design and build seven submarines of the Jangbogo-III class as a nuclear-powered vessel.
The expert, meanwhile, said the South Korean Navy should consider boosting its antimissile capabilities by acquiring U.S-made SM-3 interceptor missiles.