Missiles matter a lotWhen it comes to missiles, South Korea is an elementary student while its northern counterpart is a student getting his doctoral degree. This sad reality is the result of an anachronistic clause in the 2001 missile guidelines, which prohibits South Korea from developing or possessing a military-purpose ballistic missile with a range of 300 kilometers or more or with a warhead weighing more than 500 kilograms.
However, North Korea is developing intercontinental ballistic missiles that can reach the U.S. mainland. When the security environment changes, missile guidelines should change too. Fortunately, South Korea is reportedly negotiating with the United States to raise the ceiling. We call on our government to abolish or sharply ease the restriction.
North Korea has already developed and deployed more than 700 Scud Bs and Cs, short-range missiles with a range of 300 to 500 kilometers. It has also completed the deployment of Rodong missiles with a range of 1,300 kilometers and Musudan missiles that have an intermediate range of 3,000 to 4,000 kilometers. The North even test-launched its long-range missile Taepodong-I in 1998 and the far-advanced Taepodong-2 in 2006 and 2009.
U.S. Defense Secretary Roberts Gates recently said that the U.S. government expects North Korea will develop ICBMs capable of hitting the U.S. west coast within five years. Our missile technology, however, still lags far behind North Korea’s since our Hyunmoo-I and II missiles can hit targets only 180 to 300 kilometers away. ATACMS missiles, imported from the U.S., have a range of a mere 165 to 300 kilometers. Though we have developed Hyunmoo III, a cruise missile with a range of 1,500 kilometers, it is still dwarfed by ballistic missiles in terms of fire power and speed, making it susceptible to interceptor missiles.
South Korea will take back wartime operational control of forces on the peninsula soon. Considering our current missile capability, however, it will be difficult to handle that control properly. Therefore, our military should extend the range of our missiles while increasing the weight of the warheads they carry. It was China and North Korea that raised deep concerns about the security of Northeast Asia with their military buildups. If we want the capability to target all of North Korea, our missiles’ range should be more than 1,000 kilometers, and the weight of the warheads should exceed 1,000 kilograms. We urge the government to do its best in the negotiations with the U.S.