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South Korea, U.S. Said Near Deal on Ballistic Missile Range

A deal is close at hand with the United States that would enable South Korea to extend the flight distance of its ballistic missiles, the Korea Times quoted informed insiders as saying on Tuesday (see GSN, June 15).

The two nations are in talks on modifying a bilateral accord that presently denies the South the right to stock ballistic missiles that can travel farther than 186 miles or that can carry warheads weighing more than 1,100 pounds. Seoul wants to be able to domestically produce high-altitude missiles that can strike anywhere in longtime foe North Korea.

“Our military has conveyed the view that the extended limit of the ballistic missile should be over [497 miles]. The United States side is checking it now,” according to a senior government source in Seoul. “Though the issue is not finalized, we expect to make an agreement that brings a drastic stretch in the range (of ballistic missiles).”

The matter has taken on increased importance in Seoul in the wake of reports that Pyongyang has prepared a missile able to fly farther than 800 miles, according to the newspaper. The North in April launched a rocket in what was widely seen as another test of long-range ballistic missile technology; the rocket broke apart within minutes of takeoff.

There are worries among issue specialists that allowing South Korea to field farther-flying ballistic missiles could aggravate relations with China and North Korea.

“There have been views that the extension should be limited to [342 miles] due to concerns of China,” the official said. “But the consideration is needless as China already has intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capabilities" (Chung Min-uck, Korea Times, July 10).

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