South Korea and the US have reached an agreement on extending the range of Seoul’s ballistic missiles to counter the threat from North Korea, local media reported on Saturday, citing unnamed government officials.
Under an agreement signed in 1979 and then revised in 2001 between the two military allies, the range of South Korean missiles is limited to 300km and a payload of 500kg.
Seoul has long urged Washington to amend the pact enabling South Korea to produce missiles that could extend their reach to anywhere in North Korea.
The US agreement to develop a longer-range missile would be a political plus for outgoing President Lee Myung-Bak’s conservative government, which has been pushing to extend its range to 800km.
It’s been gearing up for South Korea to take over full operational control of its own defences from the US by 2015.
A government source told the influential Chosun Ilbo daily publication on Friday that the two countries had wrapped up negotiations on extending the range to 800km to cover all of North Korea.
The anonymous government source said the two sides have also agreed to maintain the payload limit at the current level of 500kg.
The newspaper also said that if South Korea decides to accept a missile range limit of 550km, not 800km, it could increase the payload to one tonne.
Yonhap news agency also reported that an agreement had been reached between the two sides.
According to South Korean government data sources, currently every corner of South Korea as well as US military installations in Japan and Guam, are within the range of North Korean missile attacks.
The two Koreas have been in a technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice pact, not a peace treaty.