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South Korea, U.S. Remain at Odds Over Ballistic Missile Ranges

The United States and South Korea continue to have difficulty reaching agreement on a new permitted top flight range for the South's ballistic missiles, the Korea Herald reported on Monday (see GSN, May 17).

The longtime allies have been in talks for months on revising a bilateral pact that presently 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 wishes to have a ballistic missile strike capability that brings all of North Korea within range.

South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok rejected a recent newspaper report that the two sides had agreed to increase the South's allowed ballistic missile range to about 342 miles. "The two countries have held consultations over it, but there is nothing decided as of yet."

“The two share the view that the allies should draw up measures against North Korea’s long-range missiles and strengthen South Korea’s missile capabilities," Kim added. "We also have yet to finalize the agenda items for the allies’ ministers’ meeting later this month.”

"Working-level consultations are ongoing over the range extension, and we have yet to reach any agreement. We think it may be difficult to strike an agreement within this month,” an unidentified South Korean government official informed journalists. "Seoul argues that the range should cover all areas of the [Korean] Peninsula while the U.S. holds a cautious stance. To narrow our differences, working-level negotiations will continue."

Seoul is understood to be pressing the ballistic missile range issue now as it believes Washington will have less attention to give the matter as the November presidential elections draw closer.

North Korea's ballistic missile arsenal includes the fielded Musudan, which has a top flight distance of between 1,864 miles and 2,485 miles, according to the newspaper. The developmental Taepodong 2 long-range missile has yet to be test-fired successfully though it is believed to be designed to reach as far as Alaska (Song Sang-ho, Korea Herald/Jakarta Post, June 5).

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South Korea

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