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Wednesday, September 13, 2017, 19:49
ROK conducts cruise missile drill amid DPRK threats
By Associated Press
Wednesday, September 13, 2017, 19:49 By Associated Press

In this photo provided by the defense ministry of the Republic of Korea (ROK), a ROK Air Force F-15K fighter jet releases a Taurus missile during a drill off the country's western coast, Sept 13, 2017. The ROK says it conducted its first live-fire drill for an advanced air-launched cruise missile it says will strengthen its preemptive strike capability against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the event of crisis. (ROK DEFENSE MINISTRY VIA AP)

SEOUL – The Republic of Korea (ROK) said Wednesday it had conducted its first live-fire drill for an advanced air-launched cruise missile that would strengthen its pre-emptive strike capability against Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the event of crisis.

The ROK military said the Taurus missile fired from an F-15 fighter jet traveled through obstacles at low altitudes before hitting a target off the country's western coast during drills Tuesday.

The missile, manufactured by Germany's Taurus Systems, has a maximum range of 500 kilometers and is equipped with stealth characteristics that will allow it to avoid radar detection before hitting DPRK targets, according to Seoul's Defense Ministry.

The ROK has been accelerating efforts to ramp up its military capabilities in face of a torrent of nuclear weapons tests by the DPRK, which on Sept 3 conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test to date.

Shortly after the nuke test, Seoul announced it reached an agreement with Washington to remove the warhead weight limits on ROK ballistic missiles, which under a bilateral guideline could be built for a maximum range of 800 kilometers.

A pre-emptive strike against Pyongyang's leadership would be difficult to undertake, but it's widely seen as the most realistic of the limited military options Seoul has to deny a nuclear attack from its rival.

The DPRK said its latest nuclear test was a detonation of a thermonuclear weapon built for its developmental intercontinental ballistic missiles that were flight tested twice in July. The country is also developing solid-fuel missiles that could be fired from land mobile launchers or submarines. It flew a powerful new midrange missile over northern Japan last month while declaring more missile tests targeting the Pacific Ocean.

Meanwhile, the ROK said it found a small amount of radioactivity in air samples collected days after the DPRK test.

In this photo provided by the defense ministry of the Republic of Korea (ROK), a Taurus missile fired from a ROK Air Force F-15K fighter jet is about to hit a target during a drill, off the country's western coast, Sept 13, 2017.(ROK DEFENSE MINISTRY VIA AP)

The Nuclear Safety and Security Commission said the discovery of the xenon-133 isotope is linked to the recent test but it couldn't verify exactly what kind of bomb was detonated because several other isotopes that typically accompany a nuclear explosion were not found.

Those isotopes could show if the bomb tested on Sept 3 was a plutonium or uranium device, according to the ROK agency. It said it also hasn't found traces of tritium, which accompany a test of a thermonuclear, or hydrogen, bomb.

The DPRK did a poor job obscuring its first nuclear test in 2006, when xenon and krypton isotopes detected in the atmosphere allowed scientists to conclude that the country had used a plutonium-fueled device. The country has since improved the design of its nuclear tests to make radioactivity less detectable from a distance.

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