(Updates with White House comment)
SEOUL, Oct 7 (Reuters) - South Korea has reached a landmark
agreement with the United States to extend the range of Seoul's
ballistic missiles by more than twice the current limit to
counter the threat from North Korea, the government said on
The move to significantly boost the South's missile
capabilities along with development of advanced aerial
reconnaissance vehicles is likely to rattle the communist North,
which has remained at odds since the 1950-53 Korean War left the
It may also stoke concern in China, Japan and Russia, parts
of which would be within range of the new missiles.
Under the agreement, South Korea can develop missiles up to
a range of 800 kms (497 mile) from the current ceiling of 300
kms (186 mile), Chun Young-woo, top secretary to President Lee
Myung-bak for foreign and security affairs, told reporters.
He said the United States and South Korea also agreed to
maintain the maximum payload for a South Korean-developed
ballistic missile at the current level of 500 kilograms (1,102
However, if Seoul chose to develop a missile with shorter
ranges, it could increase the payload accordingly.
South Korea has also been allowed to develop unmanned aerial
vehicles, or UAVs, with an unlimited payload weight if the
flying distance is within 300 kilometres.
Seoul has for years sought to extend its missile range to
deter the North, which it said had developed missiles that could
reach every corner of the country. It also wanted to increase
the payload for the UAVs and develop not only reconnaissance
UAVs but also combat drones.
"The most important goal for our government to revise the
missile guidelines is deterring North Korea's military
provocations," Chun said.
Currently, all of South Korea as well as U.S. military
installations in Japan and Guam, are within the range of North
Korean missile attacks, according to South Korean government
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the United States is
in regular consultations with South Korea and the "new missile
guidelines" were designed to improve the ability to defend
against North Korea's ballistic missiles. "The revisions are a
prudent, proportional, and specific response" to North Korea, he
told reporters on Air Force One.
"The onus here is on North Korea, as it has been, to abide
by its international obligations to fulfill its obligations
under two United Nations Security Council resolutions," Carney
said. It was "absolutely legitimate" for South Korea to take
actions in consultation with the United States to respond to a
threat posed by North Korea's ballistic missile program, he
In April, North Korea was condemned by the U.N. Security
Council after a failed long-range rocket launch. U.S. allies
including South Korea deemed it a disguised test for the North
to upgrade its ballistic missile technology despite Pyongyang's
claim that it was aimed to put a satellite into orbit for
Washington had sought to discourage South Korea from
developing longer-range ballistic missiles in keeping with a
voluntary international arms-control pact known as the Missile
Technology Control Regime (MTCR).
(Reporting by Sung-won Shim, additional reporting by Jeff Mason
on Air Force One; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)