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R.O.Korea Navy News

[June 1,1999]Navy test-fires Sea Sparrow missile successfully

The Navy said yesterday it has successfully test-fired a "Sea Sparrow" ship-to-air missile which hit an imaginary airborne target in the West Sea.

The RIM-7P missile, fired from the 3,000-ton destroyer Kwanggaeto, is produced by the U.S. company Raytheon. A destroyer is equipped with 16 Sea Sparrow missiles, a Navy spokesman said. The Navy procured an unknown number of the missiles last year following concerns that naval ships were vulnerable to an attack from aircraft.

The missile have a range of 20 km and a cruise speed of mach 1.3.
[Korea Herald News]

[May 21,1999][Editorial] Scoping out Russian subs

The government is apparently moving to buy Russian submarines. Many observers suspect this decision derives more from political considerations than practical reasons.

The Navy has already clearly expressed its opposition to the purchase of Russian submarines. The most noticeable problem cited by the Navy is the operational capacity of the 2,300-ton Kilo-class subs, which Moscow is trying to sell to Seoul.

They say the life of the Russian sub batteries lasts only 18-24 months. On the other hand, the battery of the 209-class subs, which are built by Daewoo with German technology, can be used for seven years.

Moreover, additional money will most likely be needed for the operation of the Russian subs which need to fit into the Korean defense system that has been built largely on Western technology. Navy officials also forecast problems in maintenance because of the difficulty in obtaining necessary parts.

In short, the Russian submarines may end up weighing down the Korean Navy although they are cheaper than Western-made subs.

The Defense Ministry and other related agencies, however, are pushing for the purchase of the Russian subs, apparently as a reconciliatory gesture in time for President Kim Dae-jung's Moscow visit next week. The rationale for their decision is that Seoul needs Moscow's cooperation in maintaining its policy on North Korea. They also say Russia may fail to repay its debts to the South, which amount to $1.47 billion, and to import submarines from Russia is a way to reduce the debts.

The short history of Korean-Russian relations, however, has taught us enough about the danger of a politically motivated decision made without consideration of long-term effects. Korea and the then Soviet Union established diplomatic relations in 1990, ending their antagonism since the end of World War II. Under the agreement on diplomatic relations was the Korean promise to provide $3 billion in loans to the Soviet Union. Koreans lent the Soviets about $1.4 billion, the debt which Russians inherited in 1991 when the Soviet Union dissolved. The controversy over the debt repayment has haunted Korean-Russian relations, hindering the sound development of the ties in virtually all areas.

Korean media and public, who had been critical of the loans from the beginning, heightened their criticisms as Russia failed to repay the loans in due time. Annoyed Russians started to blame "impatient" Koreans who they said were unable to appreciate the long-term benefits of their relations.

Some Russians who were once rushing to Seoul for various reasons also began to lean toward North Korea, in part as a way to check South Korea. During this diplomatic tussle, South Koreans have revealed a marked degree of clumsiness in handling international relations. Russia's failure to repay the debts has resulted in many Koreans underestimating Moscow's power.

A number of observers in Seoul posit that the recent strains in Seoul-Moscow relations, which culminated when Russia expelled a Korean diplomat from Moscow last year, largely stem from Russia's efforts to tame South Korea.

In fact, it can be said the submarine deal itself is a result of the debt problem as it has been offered to reduce the liability.

Seoul government officials should, first of all, consider thelong-term implications on future Korean-Russian relations when it makes a final decision on the submarine issue.

Moscow reportedly wants Seoul to pay some 70 percent of the cost of the submarines in cash and subtract the remaining 30 percent from its debts. Seoul officials have offered to pay only a half of the cost in cash.

Even if Seoul's position is accepted, Korea will have to pay $500 million in cash for the dated Russian weaponry in this economically depressed time. Seoul officials must reconsider what would happen if the Russian subs fail to function properly and burden the Navy both economically and strategically.

Any hasty decision on the issue could bring about another grave mistake that would adversely affect Korean-Russian relations for many years to come. [ Korea Herald News ]

[May 20,1999]Seoul decides to buy 3 Russian submarines

    South Korea has decided to purchase three Russian-made submarines worth about 1.2 trillion won ($1 billion) to help Moscow pay overdue debts it owes to Seoul, officials said yesterday.

    The decision was made prior to President Kim Dae-jung's visit to Russia from next Thursday to June 1.

    Defense Ministry officials said Seoul will buy three 2,300-ton Kilo-class diesel-powered submarines to be built at a Russian shipyard.

    After President Kim's Moscow visit, South Korea will send a delegation to Russia to consult with Russian officials on the details of the submarine purchase, such as price, weaponry and communications systems.

    A ministry official admitted that the decision to purchase the subs was made out of "political and diplomatic considerations," adding that they fall short of the operational capability the South Korean Navy requires.

    Russia now owes $1.75 billion in debts it acquired from the former Soviet Union to Korea. Moscow has strongly requested Seoul to buy its advanced weaponry to help it pay the debt.

    The Defense Ministry said half of the cost for the submarines will be paid in cash to Moscow while the remaining half will be subtracted from the debt.

    Purchase of the Russian submarines is expected to have an adverse impact on the Navy's program to acquire new advanced submarines, code-named SSU. The program was to have started after Daewoo finished building the last batch of nine 1,200-ton 209-class submarines. Daewoo, Hyundai and some European companies were expecting to participate in the program. The Navy presently has seven 209-class submarines.

    A Navy official said that the Kilo-class subs to be purchased have less operational ability than the Navy's 209-class and that the storage battery of a Kilo-class sub, which lasts about 18 to 24 months, would be about five years shorter than the German-made batteries of the 209-class subs.

    Therefore, an advanced battery system, called Air Independence Propulsion (AIP), should be equipped with the Russian submarines Seoul will purchase, the official said.

    The Kilo-class submarine has six torpedo tubes that can launch 18 torpedoes and mines and a launcher for eight surface-to-air missiles. Capable of spending 45 days at sea, its maximum diving depth is 300 meters. Speed is 10 knots when submerged. Range is 6,000 miles when snorting at seven knots and 400 miles when submerged at 3 knots. Twenty-four Kilo-class submarines are in servince in the Black Sea, the Baltic, the Northern Fleet and in the Pacific.

    A number of the Russian submarines have also been exported to Iran, China, India, Poland Romania and Algeria. [ Korea Herald News]

[May 11,1999]Navy have a joint exercise with Newzealand Navy in East sea

Navy announced that ROK navy and Newzealand navy hold a joint anti-submarine welfare exercise to improve anti-submarine warfare capability from May 11 to May 17 in East Sea. This is the second exercise since 1997. ROK navy P-3Cs and Changbogo class subs and Newzealand navy P-3K will participate in this exercise.

[May 4,1999]Seoul finally decided not to purchase Russian submarines as debt payment

Korea decided not to purchase Russinan submarines and continues its SSU project as planned. But Korea is carefully considering buy some Russian subs for the experimental purpose.

[Apr.14,1999]Seoul mulls buying Russian submarines as debt payment

South Korea is carefully considering purchasing two to three Russian-made submarines to help Moscow pay back debts it owes to Seoul, a government source said yesterday. Russia, which has consistently called on Seoul to purchase its high-tech weapons to pay the $1.7 billion, recently suggested that it would sell three submarines at $350 million each, said the source who demanded anonymity. "We have not decided anything about the suggestion, but we are carefully studying it," said the source.

Candidates for the Russian subs include 2,300-ton Amur-class and 2,700-ton Kilo-class attack submarines. President Kim Dae-jung plans a Russia visit in May. Russia inherited the debt from the Soviet Union in 1991, when Seoul provided loans of $1.4 billion. The debt grew with overdue interests. Russia has been paying back part of the debt with weapons and raw material. Korean Navy now has seven 1,200-ton, 209-class diesel-engine submarines. They have been built by Daewoo with German technology.

But a Navy source opposed the suggestion, saying the Defense Ministry would ignore the Navy-proposed capability of submarines its want sot obtain in a program codenamed SSU. Some European countries are competing for the SSU. They include German's HDW, teamed with Daewoo, and Fench DSN teamed with Hyundai.Seoul mulls buying Russian submarines as debt payment.
[Korea Herald News]

[Mar.27,1999]ROK Navy makes big debut at Operation Tandem Thrust

Naval delegations from five Pacific-rim countries stood on the deck of the 80,000-ton U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk at seas off Guam Tuesday, to observe Tandem Thrust, a combined maritime exercise. Aiming their binoculars seaward, the members watched closely as U.S. aircraft fired upon a huge floating target, the retired U.S. cruiser Oklahoma City. However, the two Harpoon missiles only created meager damages to the target. Then it was the South Korean Navy's turn. A 1,200-ton submarine, Lee Chun-ham, fired a 1.5-ton torpedo from 8km from the target. Seconds later, there was a loud roar, then an explosion that sent a huge column of water shooting upward through the air.

On the deck of the Kitty Hawk, there was loud applause and shouts of congratulations to the South Korean naval delegation. The applause then turned into awe, as the target ship, broke in two and sank like a rock. Nobody expected the 10,640-ton battle ship to be sunk with a single torpedo, especially one fired by a small diesel-powered submarine from South Korea. The delegation from the 7th U.S. Fleet, who expected the target to withstand multiple hits, were especially embarrassed. U.S. aircraft were already preparing to show off more of their fire power and a U.S. submarine was getting into position to launch torpedoes at the target. The South Koreans had, in effect, rained on their parade with just one torpedo.

"The foreign naval delegations from the U.S., Australia, Canada and Singapore were dumbfounded to see the target ship break in two, and disappear into the sea 27 seven minutes after it was hit by the torpedo," said a Navy official in Seoul, quoting the naval delegation participating in the biennial exercise that started in 1991. The 1.5-ton, wire-guided torpedo exploded beneath the target ship by sensing the magnetic field on the bottom of the ship, giving it the maximum impact, the official added. "It demonstrated how formidable our submarines are," he said. The South Korean Navy has seven 209-class submarines. The torpedo fired on the target was a six-meter-long German-made "Sut" model, he said.

The Tandem Thrust exercise, led by the 7th U.S. Fleet, is designed to strengthen combined operational capability among the five Pacific-rim countries for the defense of the western Pacific. The Navy sent a P-3C antisubmarine aircraft and a frigate to the exercise, which started March 15 and ends April 3. Lee Chon-ham, the first submarine built by Daewoo with German technology, was commissioned in 1993. The Navy has seven 209-class submarines. Two more are being built by Daewoo in the nation's first submarine program. The Navy is pushing the second submarine program to acquire advanced subs. A few European countries, including France, Germany and Russia, are competing for the program. (LSY)
[Korea Herald News]

[Mar.27,1999]Chinese sub almost caught in fishing net in West Sea

A Chinese naval submarine was reported to have almost been captured by South Korean fisherman in neutral waters off the west coast yesterday, the Navy said. Fishermen reported that a 77-meter long Romeo-class submarine got caught in their fishing nets at around 10 a.m. some 100km off the small island of Taechong-do. The Navy sent two patrol ships to verify the reports, but when they arrived at the scene the sub had already disappeared. Fishermen said that the submarine had freed itself and disappeared, a Navy spokesman said.

The mission of the Chinese submarine and other details were not made known immediately. South Korean Navy officials are contacting their Chinese counterparts for verification of the reports.
[Korea Herald News]

[Mar.24,1999]Four bodies, numerous weapons found inside N.K. spy boat

Four bodies, not two, as previously believed, and hundreds of weapons and ammunition were retrieved from inside a salvaged North Korean spy boat lifted out of waters off the south coast, the Defense Ministry said yesterday.

The Korean media had originally said that two bodies were suspected to be inside the boat after it was raised 150-meters from the sea last Wednesday by the South Korean Navy.

The ministry announcement brings the body count for the boat's crew now to six. Two other bodies had been found earlier. The first one was found floating in the South Sea on Dec. 18 when the spy vessel went down after being hit by South Korean Nay fire during an overnight chase. The second body was discovered on Jan. 22 by Navy divers at the bottom of the sea, with its leg tied by a rope to the sunken boat.

The Defense Ministry said the spy vessel, an upgraded SP-10H model, belongs to the Operations Department of the North Korean Workers' (Communist) Party. Unlike older semi-submersible models, it can dive up to 20 meters and cruise at a maximum speed of 50 knots through the use of three powerful engines. It has two hatches and four rudders used for underwater navigation and is covered with special paint to help it evade radar detection, the ministry said.

The Defense Ministry allowed the media to view the inventory of contents recovered from the ship at a ministry compound. Among the equipment were 724 pieces of weaponry, communications equipment, wet suits and other stuff taken off the North Korean boat or from the bodies of its crew. Included in the list were four Czech-made submachine guns, an RPG-7 anti-tank gun, a 17-kg TNT can for self-destruction, a U.S.-made portable global positioning system (GPS) device, eight hand grenades, AK assault rifle ammunition, a walkie-talkie set, suicide poison capsules, a map of the southern coast, and compressed rations.

Of particular notice was the GPS, which was the size of a cellular phone. It was the first one of its kind found in an infiltration ship, the Defense Ministry said. One million yen and 568,000 South Korean won were also retrieved from the bodies. A ministry official induced that the infiltrators were attempting to either pick up a spy or land one. The mission appeared to be a failure, the official concluded, because no signs of infiltration were discovered during searches conducted after the ship was first detected.

Because such spy vessels cannot make the long journey from the North alone, ministry officials suspect that a 50 to 100 ton mother ship had dropped it near the South Korean coast. The Navy had searched for the mother ship after the spy boat was spotted, but turned up empty. The mother boat would have most logically come from the North Korean port of Nampo on the west coast, cruised along the open seas between Korea and China, and then dropped off its cargo in the open seas some fives days after it would have left Nampo, the ministry official said.

The spy boat was first detected by an Army coast guard unit in Yosu, South Cholla Province, at around 11:15 p.m. Dec. 17 through infrared surveillance eqipment. Navy patrol ships and Air Force helicopters and fighters rushed to the scene to start a seven-hour chase. The spy boat ignored repeated warnings to surrender and opened fired at the South Korean patrol boats. An examination of the ship showed that a 76-mm naval gun shell had struck its engine room, causing it to go down in seas about 100km southeast of Yosu.

North Korea routinely sends spy boats and submarines to the South to collect intelligence or deliver secret agents. A similar boat was spotted in November in the West Sea off the island of Kanghwa but it escaped back to the North. In June last year, a North Korean submarine was caught in a fishing net in the South Korean waters off the east coast. All the nine crew members were found to have killed themselves.
[Korea Herald News]

[Mar.18,1999] Navy salvages N.K. spy boat off coast; Findings from the boat to be made public today or tomorrow

    The Navy yesterday salvaged a North Korean spy boat from the bottom of the 150-meter-deep sea off the south coast, three months after it was sunk in a gun battle at the end of a dramatic overnight chase.

    The five-ton spy boat, a semi submersible model, was pulled out of the rough waters with wire ropes which Navy divers had attached to it. It was then pulled up by the crane of a 4,400-ton salvage ship, the Chongjaejin-ham, which lifted it onto its deck at around 1:30 p.m.

    The boat was damaged in the stern, apparently hit by the fire of South Korean patrol boats that had chased it down at seas some 100km south of Koje-do.

    The Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), however, refused to confirm whether the bodies of North Korean spies were found inside the spy boat.

    Findings from the boat will be made public today or tomorrow after a close inspection is finished, a Defense Ministry spokesman said. Two bodies of North Korean agents have so far been recovered ? one in waters near the waters where the spy vessel was sunk, the other on Jan. 18 by Navy divers at the bottom of the sea. The second body was found tied to the sunken boat by a rope around his leg.

    The Defense Ministry had estimated that five to six North Korean agents were aboard the boat. Military sources believed there to be three to four.

    The Navy said divers had difficulty locating and salvaging the boat due to the deep waters, high seas and bad winter weather conditions. Divers approached the boat in a specially made deep-sea salvage capsule and wound wire ropes around it. A Navy spokesman said that the salvage operation was a record success.

    North Korea routinely sends submersible infiltration vessels and submarines into South Korean waters to gather intelligence and to land armed spies, officials said.

    The spy vessel was first detected approaching the shore under cover of darkness by an Army coast guard in Yosu, South Cholla Province, some 2km off the coast, through an infrared optical device at around 11:15 p.m. Dec. 17.

    Army and Maritime Police patrol boats rushed to the scene, but the spy boat fled southeastward. They lost its track for about two hours. A Navy radar spotted the spy boat again at around 2:20 a.m. the next day, and then eight navy patrol boats, P-3C and S-2E anti-submarine aircraft and Lynx helicopters began to chase it down. An Air Force CN-235 aircraft dropped 170 flare bombs in the vicinity of the vessel, while a F-5 fighter hovered over the area. Naval ships once approached the spy boat as close as 100 meters, demanding the crew to surrender. But they ignored the warning and opened fire, slightly damaging a South Korean Navy patrol boat. The spy boat sank after being hit by 76-mm shells and depth charges nearly seven hours after it was first spotted. A North Korean frogman, with a hand grenade in his pocket, was recovered at around 8:10 a.m. He had sustained injuries to the head. No South Korean troops were wounded in the pre-dawn chase.

    The JCS notified the Japanese military about the chase when the spy vessel started making its way toward the open seas. The Navy searched in vain for a North Korean mother ship since such small vessels do not make their way deep into South Korean waters on their own.

    The JCS said the submersible's mission was likely aimed at picking up or landing armed North Korean agents in the South. The five-ton semi-submersible, which usually carries a crew of six, was suspected to have come from the port of Nampo, North Korea and was typical of those used by North Korea for covert operations, a JCS official said.

    The intrusion into South Korean waters is the latest since South Korea failed to catch a similar spy boat in the shallow West Sea off the island of Kanghwa on Nov. 20 last year. The boat, on which four to five agents were seen aboard through an infrared optical device, attempted to come ashore in the darkness. It wasn't chased after until four hours after it was detected, and it eventually escaped. Six officers were punished for the boat's escape.

    In June last year, a North Korean spy submarine was captured in South Korean waters off the east coast. In the next month, a dead North Korean commando suspected of being a crew member of a North Korean submersible craft was found on a beach on the East Coast.
    [Korea Herald News]

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    Last Update : May 24, 1999