December 05, 2011 09:22
Washington opposes the revision of guidelines that restrict South Korea's missile range to less than 300 km. Officials from the two countries discussed the issue at the Defense Ministry on Thursday but failed to narrow their differences. They agreed to meet again early next year.
A diplomatic source in Seoul said although South Korea has been seeking to extend the missile range through various channels including the Defense Ministry since earlier this year, "no progress has been made yet."
The guidelines were last revised in 2001, extending the range from 180 km to 300 km and increasing the payload capacity to 500 kg. But Seoul argues North Korean missiles have a much longer range and the restrictions now present a security risk.
In negotiations with Washington, Seoul called for a range of over 1,000 km to cover all of North Korea, which is developing intercontinental ballistic missiles as well as short and medium-range missiles.
The North had already developed a Scud missile capable of striking all of South Korea in the 1980s. In 1998, 2006, and 2009 it tested missiles whose range is now believed to be longer than 4,000 km. South Korea believes it must extend its own missile range in time for the handover of full operational control of the South Korean armed forces from the U.S. in 2015.
But government officials say that the U.S. administration opposes extending the range because Seoul joined the Missile Technology Control Regime in 2001, which focuses on preventing proliferation of rockets with warheads of over 500 kg or a range longer than 300 km. Washington is reportedly worried that extending the range would provoke North Korea and weigh on its relations with China.
"The U.S. is worried because extending the range to 1,000 km would bring Beijing within reach as well," a government official said. "There's a rough road ahead before the guidelines are revised."
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