South Korea buys Israeli radar tech, likely to counter North’s missiles

Seoul purchases two advanced Green Pine arrays, each reportedly with a range of hundreds of miles, from state-owned ELTA Systems

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

The Green Pine radar system, manufactured by ELTA Systems Ltd., a subsidiary of the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries. (ELTA Systems Ltd.)
The Green Pine radar system, manufactured by ELTA Systems Ltd., a subsidiary of the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries. (ELTA Systems Ltd.)

South Korea announced on Tuesday that it was purchasing two advanced radar systems from Israel that are meant to improve its ability to detect incoming missiles, like those that could be launched by North Korea.

The two Green Pine radar detectors will be provided by the ELTA Systems Ltd., a subsidiary of the state-owned IAI Israel Aerospace Industries.

The purchase came despite ongoing efforts between South and North Korea to end the war that the two countries have officially been waging since 1950.

The radar deal is worth approximately $292 million, a South Korean official told Reuters.

In its announcement, Seoul said the systems could “spot and track ballistic missiles from a long distance at an early stage.” North Korea was not explicitly mentioned.

This image made from video released by KRT on June 14, 2018, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sitting in a red velvet chair in his suite at the St. Regis hotel before his summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore, June 12, 2018. (KRT via AP Video)

Analysts in South Korea said the new Green Pine radar systems could act as a deterrent against North Korea, potentially preventing Pyongyang from launching missiles in the first place.

South Korea already possesses earlier versions of the Green Pine system. The new variant Seoul announced it was purchasing on Tuesday — the third iteration, known as the Block C — is designed to both provide an early warning about an attack and work in tandem with a missile defense system to intercept the incoming projectile.

In 2009, when Seoul purchased its first pair of Green Pine radar arrays, South Korean officials said it would use them in tandem with American-made Patriot interceptor missiles.

The new model of the Green Pine radar system is believed to have an improved operational range and be able to track multiple projectiles in the air simultaneously. It is an improvement over South Korea’s current systems, which are said to have a range of approximately 800 kilometers (500 miles).

The decision to purchase the additional radar systems was made by South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration.

In this April 27, 2018, file photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in shake hands after signing on a joint statement at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone, South Korea. (Korea Summit Press Pool via AP, File)

Under dovish South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Seoul has pursued a policy of engagement with its isolated, nuclear-armed neighbor to the north.

In September, Moon and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un agreed on a broad plan to ease tensions along the border during their third summit in Pyongyang.

The two nations technically remain at war after the 1950-53 Korean War, which sealed the division of the peninsula and ended with a ceasefire instead of a peace treaty.

But ties improved markedly this year as Moon and Kim took a series of reconciliatory gestures.

Kim and US President Donald Trump also held a historic summit in June in Singapore and signed a vaguely-worded deal on denuclearization, but little progress has been made since then, with the two countries sparring over the exact meaning of the agreement.

Planned talks between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and one of Kim’s right-hand men, Kim Yong Chol, were also delayed this month.

AFP contributed to this report.

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