The United States has agreed that South Korea can develop its ballistic missile range up to 800 kms, the South Korean government announced yesterday.
The extension will help cope with military threats from North Korea and allow the South Korean army to play a more active role in its alliance with the US, the Defense Ministry said.
Since 1979, South Korea has agreed to limit its missile range in exchange for access to American military technology. Originally only 180 kms, the reach was extended to 300 kms in 2001 after North Korea developed a missile with an 800 km range in the late 1990s.
Both China and Japan have expressed concern that increasing the range may intensify military tensions in the region.
“It is positive that South Korea regains more sovereignty in military field, but it also goes against the demand of the times that the world needs a reduction of mass destruction weapons and military power,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies.
North Korea now has missiles deployed with a range of more than 3,000 kms and is reportedly developing another with a capacity of more than 6,000-kms.
The South Korean military has pointed out that under the new agreement, its weapons will be able to reach many but not all of North Korea’s military facilities, including missile and nuclear sites.
South Korea previously asked the US to allow a range of 1,000 kms, which would cover Beijing and Tokyo, but the request was denied.
A senior research fellow at Korea Institute for Defense Analysis said 800 kms is reasonable for South Korea “considering neighboring countries”.
North Korea is the first concern, in cooperation with the international community, said Ohm Tae-am.