S. Korea to OK plan to build three more Aegis destroyers: source

SEOUL, Dec. 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will finalize a plan later this month calling for the building of three more Aegis destroyers that can better cope with threats from North Korea and other regional security developments, a military source said Sunday.

The insider, who wished to remain anonymous, said the plan is expected to be finalized at a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Dec. 22. The meeting will be chaired by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Choi Yun-hee.

South Korea already has three Aegis ships belonging to its King Sejong the Great class, which are 165 meters long from stem to stern, and have a full war load displacement of over 9,000 tons. These ships, equipped with the latest phased array radar and other sensors, can deal with all kinds of air, surface and submerged threats, and permit the country to project its power far beyond South Korean waters.

"The military brass has reached an agreement that Seoul needs the state-of-the-art ships," the official said.

The military had originally planned to discuss and finalize the additional building plan for the warships last month, yet this had been delayed because the procurement was not deemed urgent at the time.

This view changed with Beijing redrawing its air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Nov. 23, which overlaps similar airspace drawn up by South Korea and Japan.

Seoul has since called on China to reconsider its move, but Beijing has rejected the request, saying the new ADIZ does not target South Korea.

Meanwhile, once the ships are in service with the Navy, South Korea will have the means to create three or four mobile squadrons to better defend its territories, such as the Dokdo Islets in the East Sea and the Ieodo Ocean Research Station. The building of the ships will cost 3 trillion won (US$2.8 billion), with the destroyers expected to enter service during the 2022-2028 period.

A mobile squadron can be made up of 2 Aegis ships, two smaller Chungmugong Yi Sun-shin Class destroyers, one sea-borne replenishment ship and two next-generation submarines. This can be supplemented by 16 helicopters and fixed-winged maritime reconnaissance planes like the P-3C Orion.

<All rights reserved by Yonhap News Agency>