Defense Minister Oh Ja-bok warned Saturday that South Korea faces a heightened military threat from North Korea following the communist North's deployment of new Soviet-made surface-to-air missiles.
Oh issued the warning on the longer-range missiles during an emergency meeting of top military leaders to safeguard the Olympic Games, which begin Sept. 17 in Seoul."The deployment of new missiles poses a serious threat to our security," Oh said.
The meeting was called after U.S. Army Gen. Louis C. Menetrey, commander of the U.S. Forces in South Korea, testified before a U.S. Senate subcommittee that North Korea has introduced SA-3 and SA-5 missiles from the Soviet Union.
The SA-5 surface-to-air missile especially poses a threat to aerial operations by U.S. and South Korean air force jets because it can cover the entire Korean peninsula, Menetrey said.
Oh said North Korea can unleash a surprise attack on South Korea "at any time" by deploying 65 percent of its ground troops and 57 percent of its naval forces closer to the border separating the two Koreas, divided since 1945.
Oh said that North Korea has 41 percent of its air force jets stationed south of the strategic line linking Pyongyang, the capital, and its eastern port city of Wonsan.
The forward deployment can cut the flying time of North Korean jets to the border to "a matter of few minutes," he said.
Oh also said that North Korea is currently trying to create "false tension" inside the demilitarized zone in an apparent move to hurt the Olympics.
North Korea has charged South Korea with a number of alleged armistice violations, including firing across the border and the introduction of illegal weapons into the DMZ that separates the two sides.
South Korea has denied the charges.
The South has in turn accused North Korea of resorting to terrorist tactics to press its demands to serve as a co-host of the Olympics.