August 17, 2017 10:30
Seoul and Washington are discussing a revision of guidelines that restrict the payload of South Korean missiles. Under the current guidelines, which were last revised in 2012, South Korea can only have ballistic missiles with a range of up to 800 km and a payload of up to 500 kg.
Gen. Lee Sun-jin, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the National Assembly's Defense Committee on Monday that talks are underway "in that direction." He was answering a question from independent lawmaker Lee Jung-hyun.
President Moon Jae-in asked his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump in late June to raise the limit from 500 kg to 1 ton. And now, "the two countries are discussing ways to lift the limit so Seoul can develop more powerful ballistic missiles to deter further North Korean provocations," a diplomatic source said.
Under a trade-off rule, South Korea can already increase the payload if it shortens the range. For example, it can have a 1-ton payload for missiles with a range of 500 km and a 2-ton payload for missiles with a range of 300 km. But it now wants the restrictions removed so it can have 1 to 2-ton payload for missiles with a range of 800 km.
The government and military are focusing on boosting the payload rather than extending the range because it is possible to strike any target in the North with 800 km-range missiles. Any longer range would make Beijing and Tokyo nervous because their territories would come within range too.
Defense Minister Song Young-moo talked with his U.S. counterpart James Mattis on the phone on Wednesday. They agreed to meet in Washington late this month for in-depth discussions about the missile guidelines, as well as the full-scale deployment of a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery and the transfer of wartime operational control, according to the Defense Ministry.
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