Korea, U.S. negotiate revision of pact on missiles
South Korea and the United States have been in negotiations to revise a bilateral pact that could endorse Seoul’s desire to make missiles capable of landing anywhere in North Korea, a government source said yesterday.
The allies started the negotiations late last year, as Seoul seeks to develop missiles with a range of up to 1,000 kilometers (621 miles). Under a revised pact in 2001, South Korea has been restricted to making missiles with a range of up to 300 kilometers and a payload of up to 500 kilograms.
“South Korea and the U.S. have been engaged in negotiations to extend the missile range since late last year,” the source said on the condition of anonymity, adding that the two sides have a “common understanding” on the matter.
“Because the talks are still at an early stage, it is too early to say how long the missile range could be extended,” the source said. “But there is a need to extend it beyond 1,000 kilometers.”
Tensions have been high since North Korea’s deadly artillery strike on a South Korean island near the Yellow Sea border in November last year killed two marines and two civilians. The shelling came just eight months after North Korea was accused of torpedoing a South Korean warship, killing 46 sailors.
During a five-day tour to South Korea, China and Japan last week, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said North Korea is becoming a direct threat to the U.S., predicting the North will develop an intercontinental ballistic missile within five years.
North Korea is believed to have developed intermediate-range missiles that can travel up to 3,000 kilometers. They could strike Japan and U.S. military bases in Guam.