Oct. 2, 2021
North Korea Is Weaponizing the Naval ‘Gray Zone’ Against the South
After months of relative restraint, the Korean Peninsula is experiencing a new arms race. Since the announcement of the Medium-term Defense Program in 2020, South Korea commissioned a 3,800-ton Dosan Ahn Changho-class submarine and test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on September 15. The U.S.-Republic of Korea (ROK) missile guideline was terminated in June, freeing South Korea to develop long-range missiles, and the ROK Navy (ROKN) is expected to commission a light aircraft carrier within years. North Korea also test-fired its new cruise missile that flew approximately 1,500 km and recently resumed its ballistic missile testing after a six-month break. While South Korea has been preparing for the future wartime operational control (OPCON) transfer from the United States by acquiring cutting-edge platforms and enhancing its capabilities for autonomous military operations, there has been a lack of debate on a comprehensive strategy to counter North Korean conventional and asymmetrical military threats.