South Korea's defense ministry today announced that it has put off the testing of it Long Range Surface-to-air interceptor missile (L-SAM) due to “technical reasons.”
However, unnamed critics said that the test was delayed at the instruction of the presidential office as the Moon Jae-in administration wanted to avoid antagonizing the North amid a reconciliatory mood, the Yonhap News Agency reported.
The L-SAM missile system is being developed to shoot down ballistic missiles fired from North Korea. It is a key element of the Korean Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) along with the existing US-made PAC-III system.
The military authorities had planned to conduct a firing test of the interceptor following completion of the development phase which began in 2014.
However, The Ministry of National Defense (MND) asserted, "Above all, we considered the technical part and the conditions of a testing site," the ministry's spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo said at a press briefing today as quoted by Yonhap.
The L-SAM system which intercepts missiles at an altitude of 40-50 kilometers is considered a competitor to the US-made Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. Its development was completed earlier this year and the MND expects to deploy it by 2023.
Some speculation is that the L-SAM test was delayed due to pressure from the US whose THAAD system is still deployed in South Korea. Washington is pressuring Seoul to pay for the THAAD system which was installed after a flurry of missile launches by North Korea in 2017.