+ A

Intel official: Pyongyang has chemical cluster bombs

Aug 24,2017
North Korea has successfully developed chemical cluster-bomb units capable of being attached to its ballistic missiles, a local intelligence source exclusively told the JoongAng Ilbo Monday.

The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the classified nature of the information, said Pyongyang has been trying to master the technology for years in order to evade an interception by the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile defense system deployed by the U.S. military stationed in South Korea.

North Korea’s cluster bombs are designed to blow up 25 kilometers (16 miles) above ground. The PAC-3 has a maximum altitude of 20 kilometers.

In the face of North Korea’s development, the U.S. military base here is said to have recently deployed the PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE), which has a maximum altitude of 40 kilometers, according to a local military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

A South Korean-U.S. military report in 2014, exclusively obtained by the JoongAng Ilbo earlier this month, showed the allies assessed then that the cluster bombs were controlled by the North Korean People’s Army Strategic Force, and could be attached to short-range Scud missiles, which can fly between 50 to 1,000 kilometers, and mid-range Rodong missiles, which usually fly from 300 to 1,300 kilometers.

Shin Jong-woo, secretary general of the Korea Defense and Security Forum, analyzed that North Korea would try to drop the cluster bombs on South Korean and U.S. naval bases in the event of war, wrecking runways and disabling military planes.

South Korean cluster bombs, Shin added, usually have the capacity to drop munition on an area as large as three football fields.

Meanwhile, several nongovernmental North Korea experts who have experience interacting with Pyongyang officials through back channels in China told the JoongAng Ilbo that the North Korean government has imposed a ban on communication with the South.

One source, who asked not to be named, said his “North Korean partner” told him in early August that it was an order handed down from the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea to sever all dialogue channels with South Korea “until the party decides otherwise.” Another source said his calls to North Korea recently started going unanswered, too.

BY LEE CHUL-JAE [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]