S. Korea approves purchase of bunker-busting missiles from Europe

South Korea decided Wednesday to buy German bunker-busting air-to-ground long-range missiles to strengthen its air force in light of North Korean threats, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration said.

The plan to purchase Taurus KEPD 350s for South Korea's F-15K strike fighters was approved in a meeting presided over by Defense Minister Kim Kwan Jin.

The GPS-guided missile, manufactured by German company Taurus Systems, has a 500-kilometer range and is used by Germany and Spain.

The Taurus will be the first strategic weapon bought from Europe rather than the United States.

A spokesman for the state procurement agency said details have to be discussed with the supplier.

According to Yonhap News Agency, South Korea plans to buy about 170 missiles, costing about 2 billion won ($1.8 million) each.

Missiles launched from South Korean airspace can hit strategic targets in North Korea with precision, including nuclear and missile bases, Yonhap said, adding the Taurus has a 480-kilogram warhead capable of penetrating up to 6 meters of reinforced concrete with an error rate of a mere 2 to 3 meters.

South Korea has reportedly been attempting to introduce long-range air-to-ground missiles since 2008, allowing its fighter jets to destroy North Korean ground targets, including nuclear facilities and artillery hidden in caves.

South Korea had expressed interest in Lockheed Martin's Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, a rival to the Taurus, but the Pentagon did not approve the sale of the 370-km range missile to Seoul.

"At the beginning, we tried to push ahead with the acquisition program through competitions," the spokesman for the state procurement agency said, adding, "However, we had to make a decision quickly in light of North Korea's continuing threats."