Seoul, Oct 18 (IANS) South Korean military is to mull the development of its own nuclear-powered submarine against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, the media reported on Tuesday.
Government officials and ruling Saenuri Party members in a meeting asked the government to push for the development of its own submarine propelled by nuclear power, Xinhua news agency reported.
A defence ministry official said the military would carefully weigh the call in consideration of military effectiveness, technical availability and military situations in neighbouring countries.
Calls here for introducing its own nuclear-powered submarine emerged after Pyongyang 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 August 24, covering a distance of some 500 km toward Japan.
The flight distance surpassed the 300 km which Seoul’s military regards as a success.
Top North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered to build a couple of 3,000-ton submarines capable of carrying and launching ballistic missiles.
A completed SLBM technology would raise Pyongyang’s nuclear threat to a new level as it is very hard to detect and track a North Korean 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 effectiveness.
The South Korean submarine will be required to wait inside waters 10-20 km away from North Korean 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 North Korea.
Military experts estimated it would take around six-seven years to develop and deploy a submarine propelled by nuclear power, while about 1.5 trillion won ($1.3 billion) 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 submarine.
The US-South Korea civil nuclear accord bans Seoul from enriching uranium for military purpose.
The miniaturised reactor inside a submarine requires uranium enriched at least 20 per cent.
Seoul’s defence ministry official said the use of nuclear material 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.