S. Korea missile range to increase
By Chung Min-uck
Seoul and Washington are nearing a compromise to extend the former’s ballistic missile range which is now restricted to 300 kilometers, sources said Tuesday.
The South Korean government reportedly asked to increase the missile range to at least 800 kilometers or to scrap the range-restriction agreement made with Washington.
Seoul is banned from developing ballistic missiles with a range of more than 300 kilometers under the agreement revised in 2001. Before then it was 180 kilometers.
“Our military has conveyed the view that the extended limit of the ballistic missile should be over 800 kilometers. The United States side is checking it now,” a high-ranking government official said. “Though the issue is not finalized, we expect to make an agreement that brings a drastic stretch in the range (of ballistic missiles).”
Calls for the extension have been mounting here after North Korea allegedly developed a missile with a range of 1,300 kilometers.
The Korean Peninsula stretches about 1,030 kilometers from north to south and between 175 and 300 kilometers from west to east.
Regarding the issue, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, after the “two-plus-two” talks held in Washington from June 13 to 14, gave a positive sign, saying the two nations “are making good progress, and our hope is that we can arrive at an agreeable solution soon.”
However, some experts have been critical of such move as an extension could provoke China and North Korea, consequently increasing tensions in the region.
“There have been views that the extension should be limited to 550 kilometers due to concerns of China,” said the official. “But the consideration is needless as China already has intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capabilities.”
Meanwhile, some say the extension of the ballistic missile range could push Seoul to participate in the regional missile defense led by the U.S.
U.S. President Barak Obama’s regional missile defense system is similar to the Theater Missile Defense (TMD) system under the George W. Bush administration, a U.S.-initiated missile defense program accompanied by its allies and partners in different regions in relation to U.S.’ security interests.
Washington currently has missile defense cooperative programs with a number of allies including Japan in Northeast Asia.