Bloomberg News

South Korea Increases Combat Alert as Lee Travels to U.S.

October 13, 2011

(Updates with share price of defense companies in fourth paragraph.)

Oct. 13 (Bloomberg) -- South Korea’s military raised its level of combat readiness as a result of President Lee Myung Bak’s visit to the U.S. and not because of any unusual movement from North Korea, a Defense Ministry official said.

South Korea detected the relocation of a North Korean ground-to-air missile and its launch pad near the disputed western sea border, and several missiles have been fired near there recently, Yonhap News said earlier, citing an unidentified government official. The Joint Chiefs of Staff responded by strengthening border security and raising the military’s level of preparedness, Yonhap said.

The alert level is usually raised when the president travels abroad, the official said on condition of anonymity in line with ministry policy. Lee, who meets President Barack Obama today, curtailed his predecessor’s policy of engaging with North Korea, arguing it rewarded Kim Jong Il’s provocative behavior.

Speco Co. led gains among South Korean defense-related companies following the Yonhap report, jumping by the daily limit of 15 percent to 1,865 won. Victek Co. Ltd., which makes electronic warfare equipment, rallied 8.2 percent, while military communications manufacturer Huneed Technologies rose 4 percent.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula last year rose over attacks that killed 50 South Koreans. The U.S. and the United Nations responded by increasing sanctions against North Korea while urging Kim’s regime to return to nuclear disarmament talks.

Lee and the Obama administration say North Korea must also make an irrevocable commitment to cease attacks like the sinking of the Cheonan warship in March 2010 that killed 46 sailors and the November shelling of Yeonpyeong Island.

Lee replaced his defense minister and army head following the shelling, vowing to strengthen the military and respond more harshly to any further North Korean attacks. South Korea and North Korea remain technically at war after their 1950-1953 conflict ended in a cease-fire.

--With assistance from Saeromi Shin in Seoul. Editors: John Brinsley, Mark Williams

To contact the reporter on this story: William Sim in Seoul at wsim2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net


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