US approves range extension of South Korea's ballistic missiles
The US Government has signed a revised bilateral agreement with South Korea enabling an extension of the latter's ballistic missile ranges to increase protection against threats from North Korea.
Addressing a press conference, South Korea's senior presidential official Chun Yung-woo said that the new deal would extend Seoul's missile range to 800km, up from the existing 300km, while the payload weight remains unchanged at the current maximum of 500kg.
"The most important objective for our government in revising the missile guideline is to contain North Korea's armed provocation," Yung-woo added.
US President Barack Obama's press secretary Jay Carney said the revisions had resulted from regular negotiations with Seoul on the threat from Pyongyang, and hold 'prudent, proportional and specific response to North Korea'.
South Korea's Ministry of National Defence (MND) also confirmed that the country would increase its missile capability, to enable it to intercept threats from North Korea even from southern regions.
Under the new agreement, South Korea can develop short range missiles with heavier payloads, and also have several cruise missiles of an unlimited range, with less than 500kg payload.
In addition, the country can manufacture unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) of unlimited payload weight, provided the range is within 300km.
The US and South Korean governments first signed the bilateral missile pact in 1979, which limited the ballistic missile range to 180km in return for US assistance in missile technology development.
However, the deal was later revised in 2001 to extend the range to 300km upon Seoul's requests after North Korea accelerated efforts for production of advanced missiles.