The United States on Wednesday refused to discuss rumors it had agreed to allow South Korea to extend its permitted ballistic missile range, according to a Yonhap News Agency report.
Recent South Korean media reports indicated the two longtime allies had struck a bargain that would permit Seoul to manufacture high-altitude missiles with ranges as high as 497 miles -- up from the 186-mile maximum flight distance authorized under an existing accord. There would reportedly be no change to the top allowed payload weight of 1,100 pounds.
"As you know, we continue to talk about bilateral security arrangements. We've made that clear here. I don't have anything new to report to you today on the missile side," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said to journalists.
A prominent South Korean lawmaker said the legislative National Assembly should decisively push back if the government in Seoul is denied the right to build ballistic missiles with ranges as great as roughly 620 miles, the Korea Times reported on Wednesday.
The current limiting ballistic missile rules are a "national disgrace," according to Representative Ahn Hong-joon, who heads parliament's foreign affairs panel.
"The missile guidelines touch on our sovereign right to self-defense," Ahn said, without giving specifics on what lawmakers should do if Seoul is denied the higher missile range.
"South Korea is a mature democratic country that will never launch an armed attack against neighboring countries unless it is provoked," Ahn said.
A National Assembly Research Service analysis issued on Tuesday says the missile restrictions do not adequately account for the current regional threat climate and possibly contravene South Korea's right of self-governance. The assessment also contends the ballistic missile restrictions are hindering South Korea's development of a space research sector, particularly in the design of solid-fueled rocket firing systems.