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US Could Discuss Raising Seoul`s Missile Range

Posted July. 07, 2009 08:22,   


The U.S. military could officially bring up the revision of a bilateral missile guideline to raise the permissible range of South Korean ballistic missiles at the annual Security Consultative Meeting.

This comes amid the growing demand for missile sovereignty by South Korean politicians in the aftermath of North Korea’s long-range missile launches.

In a meeting with advisers to National Defense Committee members from both the ruling and opposition parties Thursday, a top U.S. military official reportedly told a briefing, “The revision of the bilateral missile guideline can be discussed through various channels such as the Security Consultative Meeting and the Military Committee Meeting.”

The two meetings are regular consultative bodies between the defense ministers and chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of both nations. A source said, “If South Korea suggests a revision of the guideline, the issue can be sufficiently discussed through consultation between military authorities or further bilateral talks.”

The 90-minute briefing was held Thursday at the (South) Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command at Seoul’s Yongsan district with 20 advisers invited by U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. Walter Sharp. The briefing covered the transfer of wartime operational control, relocation of the U.S. military garrison and other matters, followed by a question and answer session.

A top Seoul military source said, “U.S. forces have actively agreed to discuss the revision issue. Therefore, the two sides are highly likely to launch a full-fledged discussion on the missile guideline revision as early as October, when the 41st Security Consultative Meeting is scheduled.”

The missile guideline puts a substantial restriction on South Korea’s development of mid and long-range ballistic missiles. Under a bilateral agreement with Washington signed in the 1970s, Seoul agreed not to develop or possess missiles with a range exceeding 180 kilometers and capable of carrying warheads weighing more than 500 kilograms.

The late President Park Chung-hee had originally pledged to independently develop a missile with a range of 300 kilometers, but the signing of the 1979 agreement reduced that figure to 180 kilometers, a range that covers the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.