Amid growing nuclear threats from North Korea, South Korea is expected to start mass production of new mid-range hit-to-kill missile interceptor, a defense official told the country’s Yonhap News Agency on Saturday. The missile interceptor, codenamed M-SAM, will be used as a central element of South’s Korea Air and Missile Defense System against the North, the report added.
The country’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration is planning to start the production of M-SAM later this year, Yonhap reported, without mentioning the exact date. The missile interceptors are expected to be deployed in 2019.
M-SAM is capable of intercepting missiles at an altitude of 12-25 miles, the news agency reported. The completion of the missile interceptor reportedly happened two months ahead of its scheduled date in August.
"The prototype of the M-SAM (missile) to intercept an enemy's ballistic missile was rated fit for combat operation by meeting all the requirements at a test early this month," the official told Yonhap.
The development comes after the U.S. successfully shot down a mock intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) over the Pacific Ocean using a long-range interceptor missile May 30. The test was widely seen as a test of Washington’s ability to counter growing nuclear power of North Korea, which has threatened to launch its ICBM — capable of reaching the mainland U.S. After the successful test, which was carried out from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the Pentagon said, the intercept was a "direct hit" and an "obliteration" of the target.
North Korea reacted to the U.S. test and said the move was a military provocation.
"Such a risky act is a sign that their (U.S.) preparations for unleashing a nuclear war against the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] have reached the final phase," a spokesman for North Korea's Strategic Force told the country’s official Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 3.
"Their foolhardy moves go to clearly prove that the DPRK's step for bolstering the nuclear force for self-defense is entirely just," the spokesman told the news agency.
Pyongyang also called the test a bluff.
"They (U.S.) are now bluffing, bragging about the 'success' in the test and the efficiency of the missile interception system. But the DPRK considers it just a foolish act of those driven to despair," the North's spokesman told KCNA. "They are sadly mistaken if they think such missile interception system can prevent the shower of nuclear strike by the Strategic Force of the KPA (Korean People's Army). The last-ditch gambling of the Trump administration for a nuclear war will only bring earlier the day when the U.S. mainland will turn into ashes."
The Kim Jong Un-led nation has repeatedly conducted missile launches, despite strict sanctions and warnings from the United Nations and other countries around the world. This has fueled tensions in the Korean Peninsula.