The United States has agreed to assist South Korea in analyzing its ballistic missile defense requirements in the face of North Korea's evolving missile capabilities, the Yonhap News Agency reported on Friday (see GSN, April 12).
"With South Korea, we have engaged in bilateral missile-defense cooperation discussions and have recently signed a terms of reference and an agreement that will enable our two nations to carry out a requirements analysis so that South Korea can make informed decisions about the utility of any future BMD program," U.S. Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Bradley Roberts said at a Thursday Senate hearing.
Pyongyang has a missile force that includes hundreds of short-range Scud missiles as well as midrange Rodong missiles and long-range Taepodong 2 missiles that have been tested in recent years with varying success.
Seoul has rejected participating in a U.S.-led international missile defense system while seeking to collaborate with Washington on establishing a national missile shield, which would use Patriot systems and other technology aimed at eliminating potential short- and medium-range missiles launched from North Korea.
The South's caution derives from concerns about aggravating Russia and China, according to Yonhap. The situation has led the United States to pursue direct collaboration with Seoul on antimissile capabilities that could figure into a regional shield that includes Japan, which is a full participant in U.S. efforts to establish an international missile defense.
"One of the key differences between the East and Europe is the absence of multilateral alliance framework based on collective defense," Roberts said. "Thus our plans to strengthen regional missile defense architecture have had to be built on the foundations of bilateral cooperation and a variety of security interests and perceptions."
The actual operational value of missile defense technologies remains in question in some circles. The United States has had mixed success in recent years in conducting intercept test of missile targets (see GSN, April 15; Hwang Doo-hyong, Yonhap News Agency, April 15).