South Korea’s Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) system is becoming a key issue in discussions on the transfer of wartime operational command (OPCON) from the US. Seoul’s Hankyoreh reports. The incorporation of South Korea’s system into the one led by the US stands to trigger objections from China, which sees itself a target.
The two countries discussed preparing a response to North Korea’s increased nuclear and missile capabilities on Oct. 2, 2013. “The South Korean and US missile defense systems don’t have to be identical as long as they are interoperable.” US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said. His remarks suggested that South Korea is not obliged to take part in the US system, but that the two countries’ systems should allow for linkages and interoperation.
The KAMD, which is now in the planning stages, would be in place and capable of intercepting North Korean missiles by 2022 at the latest. Officials in Seoul expressed reservation from the thrust to integrate the two missile defense systems, leaving the door open for ‘exchange information on North Korean missile launches.’, particularly concerning low-altitude defense, which is the most prevalent task in the Korean Peninsula.
Both South and North Korea have maximum firing ranges of just 1,000 km. The US missile defense system, in contrast, would be designed mainly to intercept intercontinental ballistic missiles.