SOUTH Korea says a deal with the United States to more than double the range of its missile systems to cover the whole of North Korea – in a move sure to infuriate Pyongyang. The agreement will allow the South to deploy missiles with a range of 800 kilometres, up from the current limit of 300 kilometres, national security adviser Chun Yung-Woo told reporters on Sunday.
“The biggest purpose of the revision is curbing military provocations by North Korea,” Chun said. It will bring the whole of North Korea into range, as well as parts of China and Japan. The US stations 28,500 troops in South Korea and guarantees a nuclear “umbrella” in case of any atomic attack. In return, Seoul accepts limits on its missile capabilities.
An agreement signed with the US in 2001 – the year South Korea joined the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) – restricted its missiles to a range of 300 kilometres and a payload of 500 kilograms. Given the ambitions of North Korea’s missile program, Seoul has long argued for the range limit to be extended and negotiations took on a new urgency after a failed rocket launch by the North in April.
Pyongyang insisted its aim was to put a satellite into orbit, but the US and its allies saw the failed launch as a disguised long-range missile test banned under UN resolutions. Chun said the new deal, which would take the range of South Korea’s missiles well beyond MTCR limits, was aimed at “securing a more comprehensive response to missile threats” by the North.