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U.S. Senator Could Accept Farther-Flying South Korean Ballistic Missiles

The chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday said he could accept South Korean possession of ballistic missiles with increased flight ranges, the Yonhap News Agency reported (see GSN, June 5).

Seoul and Washington are in talks on revising a bilateral pact that prohibits the South from producing high-altitude missiles with ranges greater than 186 miles or that can carry explosive payloads heavier than 1,100 pounds. Seoul wants a ballistic missile strike capability that brings all of longtime foe North Korea within range.

"If they want to do it in a nonthreatening way, totally defensive way at its own expense, I don't have any problem going on," Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said during a speaking appearance in Washington.

The lawmaker indicated he has no "strong feeling" on the matter, as long as Seoul's missile drive is not "viewed as a kind of offensive, taking an offensive position or threatening position towards China or toward North Korea."

Discussions on the missile issue are ongoing, the State Department said.

"We share the Republic of Korea's security concerns, and we cooperate with Seoul to address its needs and we routinely seek to identify ways to improve our planning efforts, which include the full range of alliance capabilities -- including conventional forces, missile defense, nuclear capabilities and strategy doctrine," according to a department representative.

The official added: "We must consider this issue responsibly and ensure that any steps we take to ensure strong Republic of Korea defense capabilities are consistent with our shared regional and global nonproliferation objectives" (Lee Chi-dong, Yonhap News Agency, June 12).

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