WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon said on Monday that it was reviewing bilateral ballistic missile guidelines with South Korea that could allow Seoul to have more powerful missiles as tensions with North Korea rise over its missile and nuclear programs.
Under the current guidelines, last changed in 2012, South Korea can develop missiles up to a range of 800 km (497 miles) with a maximum payload of 500 kg (1,102 pounds).
President Donald Trump’s attempts to pressure North Korea into abandoning its nuclear ambitions have so far gained little traction, and Pyongyang has only stepped up its tests, launching two intercontinental ballistic missile tests last month.
“There is currently a limit on the warhead size and missiles that South Korea can have and yes, it is a topic under active consideration here,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said.
“I would tell you that we would be favorably inclined to do anything which furthers the defense capabilities of South Korea and we certainly have seen our alliance change and adapt over time before,” Davis said.
The Pentagon said it had received the request to review the guidelines from South Korea and the military was working with the State Department to determine the best way forward.
The U.N. Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on Saturday aimed at pressuring Pyongyang to end its nuclear program. The sanctions could further choke North Korea’s struggling economy by slashing its $3 billion annual export revenue by a third.
Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Andrew Hay