By Kim Eun-jung
SEOUL, April 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will deploy an indigenous missile defense system in July to cope with the belligerent North's aggressive pursuit of a missile and weapons program, a senior military official said Wednesday.
South Korea, which decided not to join the U.S.-led global missile defense system, has gradually been building an independent, low-tier missile shield called the Korea Air and Missile Defense System (KAMD) since 2006 by acquiring Patriot missiles and long-range early warning radars.
The KAMD involves early warning radars, ship-to-air and land-based missile defense systems, arming Seoul with the ability to track and shoot down the North's low-flying, short- and medium-range missiles, with help of U.S. early warning satellites.
Amid growing military tensions with the increasingly combative North, Seoul will begin operating the control tower of the shield system, called the Air and Missile Defense Cell (AMD-Cell), from July, the official said. The military had planned to deploy it at the end of last year, but it was delayed as some parts had failed during testing.
"It analyzes information acquired from the U.S. early missile warning satellites and South Korea's radar system and sends it to Patriot missile units," the official said, asking for anonymity as he is not authorized to talk to media. "After testing is completed, it can be deployed by July."
Seoul has been pushing to bolster its defenses against North Korea, which is believed to have over 1,000 missiles with varying capabilities, but the mid-term plan took on new urgency after the communist country successfully fired off a long-range rocket last December.
Pyongyang claims the launch was aimed at sending a working satellite into space, but Seoul and Washington consider it to have been a covert test of its ballistic missile technology.
Most recently, the unpredictable nation was seen moving its mid-range missiles to its east coast and moved several mobile launchers to South Hamgyong Province, which outsiders suspect it to be another provocative act aimed at heightening tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
In response to the North's latest military moves, the U.S. has relocated two of the Navy's missile-defense ships closer to the Korean Peninsula, and a land-based system is being deployed to its Pacific territory of Guam.
On Tuesday, Adm. Samuel Locklear, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command, told Congress that U.S. defenses could intercept a ballistic missile launched by North Korea.
Japan, which is within the North's medium- and long-range missile capacity, has deployed Patriot Advanced Capability-3 units and Aegis destroyers equipped with Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) to protect its territories from the missiles or debris.
SM-3 interceptors are capable of shooting down a ballistic missile outside the earth's atmosphere, while PAC-3 interceptors provide back-up protection as the missile returns to earth.
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