Russia has activated three new early-warning radar stations to detect missile attacks near its southeastern border, including its border with North Korea, after repeated missile tests by Pyongyang have raised fears of a possible conflict.
The deputy commander of Russia’s air force, Aleksandr Golovko, boasted that "for the first time in history" a trio of new Voronezh rocket-attack-detection radar stations had entered service in the Krasnoyarsk, Altai, and Orenburg regions, the Ministry of Defense’s Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper reported on December 20.
The new radar stations all sit near Russia's borders with Kazakhstan and Mongolia, but with an operating range of 6,000 kilometers, they have the Korean Peninsula and chunks of Russia’s Pacific coastline in range.
The Kremlin activated its Voronezh-DM radar system covering its western borders in 2011, and has been replacing Soviet-era radar systems since 2005.
The new additions improve Moscow's radar coverage in the east. Previously, only one of its systems, in Irkutsk, was located east of the Ural Mountains.
Two Voronezh-type stations are located in the St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad regions, while one is based in Krasnodar, near Ukraine. A new radar station is also planned in Russia's far north during 2019.
Moscow tested the new deployments earlier this year, and in June the Ministry of Defense announced that its Krasnoyarsk-based system had detected six launches of ballistic missiles in the northeast Pacific.
Golovko did not mention any specific country as a threat. Plans for the new radar stations were announced by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in June. China's border with Russia is also within range of the stations.
But it comes at a time of heightened tensions as a result of North Korea's repeated tests of nuclear bombs and ballistic missiles this year.
Russia has condemned Pyongyang's nuclear weapons ambitions, but it has also accused Washington of antagonizing North Korea and has pushed for direct dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington.
Russia has signalled several times that it is making preparations, should war break out on the Korean Peninsula.
The Kremlin’s top security adviser said earlier this month that Moscow’s top objective was to avoid war, but it was preparing for a scenario in which the situation devolves into fighting.