Stringent missile guidelines which limit the range of Korea's missiles to 300 km and the payload to 500 kg also require Seoul to provide Washington with key information in the production of missiles from the design stage to completion.
The 2001 revision of the guidelines first agreed in 1979 states that Korea must inform the U.S. where its latest ballistic and cruise missiles are manufactured and how many are being made each year.
Yet the production volume and manufacturing facility of the Hyunmu-2 ballistic missiles with a range of 300 km and Hyunmu-3 cruise missiles with a range of 500-1,500 km are classified information, and government officials here feel that even though the U.S. is a main ally, the guidelines severely transgress on Seoul's rights despite not being a legally binding treaty or accord.
Korea must also provide the U.S. with key data on missiles under development, including thrust and the weight of the missile with and without propellant, before the first prototype is launched. The data enables the U.S. to assess core information including a missile's range and payload size. The guidelines also require Korea to discuss verification measures with the U.S. to see if the South has violated any of the terms either after 10 preparations for a test launch or after five test launches.
Officials here say the revised guidelines are tantamount to violating Korea's sovereignty.
The U.S. also demanded inspections of missile production facilities when the revision was being negotiated, but Seoul apparently refused. "It is a burden following all the demands of the missile guidelines, but the U.S. has never inspected any research centers or facilities," said one official who once headed a domestic weapons development agency.
A government source agreed. "To my knowledge, the U.S. has never demanded any more information than we gave them according to the guidelines, nor did they conduct any on-site inspections." But experts say that Korea should not have to provide such confidential information to the U.S. when other U.S. allies such as European countries or Japan are not required to divulge it.
"Last year, the U.S. was suspicious that our military officials illegally removed a seal on a device on F-15K fighter jets called 'Tiger Eye,'" one expert here recalled. The device, which the U.S. sold to the Korean Air Force, helps a jet fly at a low altitude to avoid detection by enemy radar and launch attacks with precision-guided munitions at night and in bad weather. Washington dispatched inspectors but they found nothing.
"You can't describe it as a normal alliance when the U.S. is so sensitive about revealing its own secrets but has so much access to our missile data," the expert added.