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South Korea, U.S. Said Wrangling Over Ballistic Missile Ranges

The United States and South Korea have been unable yet to bridge their differences on allowing Seoul to develop ballistic missiles with longer ranges, the Yonhap News Agency quoted an informed insider as saying on Wednesday (see GSN, May 4).

"The two sides are in consultations. It's an ongoing process. But there is no specific progress yet," according to the unidentified source.

The two nations are in discussions on changing a 2001 bilateral accord that forbids the South from producing high-altitude missiles with ranges greater than 186 miles or that can carry a warhead heavier than 1,100 pounds, according to earlier reports.

South Korea would like to be able to develop ballistic missiles that can strike anywhere in North Korea.

"You can say that South Korea and the U.S. have different angles on this issue. The U.S. side seems to question the need for South Korea to extend its ballistic missile range. Chances are low that there will be an agreement in the near future," the source said.

The Lee Myung-bak administration is reportedly pressing its diplomats to secure a deal on the matter prior to the end of the president's term in early 2013.

The U.S. State Department in a statement to Yonhap noted the importance of the countries' cooperation in deterring attacks from North Korea.

"The R.O.K. is one of our closest allies and the U.S.-R.O.K. alliance is a linchpin of stability in Northeast Asia," the department said. "Our militaries are closely integrated and we have exceptionally strong security cooperation."

Foggy Bottom, however, did not specifically address the matter of South Korean missile capabilities.

"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," the statement said. "The United States is committed to a robust dialogue and continued cooperation with the R.O.K. on these important and constantly evolving security issues" (Yonhap News Agency/Korea Times, May 10).

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