South Korea to deploy new strike missiles

Communist north in range of weapon
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The Independent Online

After extended negotiations with the United States, South Korea said it will build and deploy missiles with ranges long enough to reach most of communist North Korea.

After extended negotiations with the United States, South Korea said it will build and deploy missiles with ranges long enough to reach most of communist North Korea.

Under its new missile policy officially adopted today, South Korea will build missiles capable of traveling up to 187 miles with a payload of up to 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds), said the Foreign Ministry in a statement.

During their historic summit in June, the leaders of South and North Korea agreed to avoid confrontation, especially along the DMZ, the world's most heavily armed border.

Nevertheless, the South wanted to improve the deterrent capabilities of its military by extending the range of its missile.

A key obstacle was a 1979 agreement with Washington that barred South Korea from developing a missile with a range longer than 112 miles.

Washington has feared that South Korea's attempt to lengthen missile ranges could trigger a regional arms race and make it more difficult to persuade North Korea to curb its missile development and exports.

After 20 rounds of talks since 1995, Washington agreed earlier this month to let South Korea develop missiles within the limits of the Missile Technology Control Regime, which was launched by Washington in 1987 and bars its members from deploying missiles with a range longer than 187 miles.

South Korea plans to join the regime soon, the ministry said.

The missile control regime has 32 members. The holdouts include Middle Eastern countries, India, Pakistan, China and North Korea.

Washington is trying to curb the communist North's missile development and exports. North Korea rattled East Asia in mid-1998 by test firing a missile over Japan into the Pacific Ocean. It also is accused of exporting missile technology to Syria and other Mideast countries.

The Seoul government gave no further details on its new missile guidelines. But local news reports, quoting an unidentified government source, said South Korea can extend its missile range to 310 miles if it agrees to reduce the payload.

Missiles with a 310-mile range can strike almost anywhere in North Korea, except for its northeast corner. With 187-mile-range missiles, South Korea could hit Pyongyang and other key North Korean cities.

South Korea also said it will develop civilian rockets without constraints on their ranges. It said it develop them only for peaceful purposes and in a transparent manner.

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