SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea and the United States have reached an agreement on extending the range of Seoul’s ballistic missiles to counter the threat from North Korea, local media reported on Saturday, citing unnamed government officials.
Under an agreement signed in 1979 and then revised in 2001 between the two military allies, the range of South Korean missiles is limited to 300 kilometers (186 miles) and a payload of 500 kilograms (1,102 lbs).
But Seoul has long urged Washington to amend the pact enabling the South to produce missiles that could reach anywhere in North Korea to deter the communist state’s cross-border provocations.
A government source told the influential Chosun Ilbo daily on Friday that the two countries had wrapped up negotiations on extending the range of the ballistic missiles to 800 kilometers to cover all of North Korea.
The unnamed government source was quoted as saying the two sides have also agreed to maintain the payload limit at the current level of 500 kilograms.
However if South Korea decides to accept a missile range limit of 550 kilometers, not 800 kilometers, it could increase the payload to one tonne, the newspaper said.
Yonhap news agency also reported that an agreement had been reached between the two sides.
Currently, every corner 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 data.
The two Koreas are still technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice pact, not a peace treaty.
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 peaceful purpose.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan told a parliamentary hearing on Friday that negotiations with Washington over the missile issue had reached the “final stage”.
Officials at Seoul’s defense and foreign ministries declined comment on the media reports, saying they had nothing further to add to the foreign minister’s statement.
Reporting by Sung-won Shim; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani