SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea will be able to possess longer-range missiles capable of hitting all of North Korea under a new agreement with the United States that is likely to draw an angry response from the North.
Under a previous 2001 accord with Washington, South Korea had been barred from deploying ballistic missiles with a range of more than 186 miles and a payload of more than 1,100 pounds because of concerns about a regional arms race.
The restriction has made South Korea’s missile capability inferior to that of rival North Korea, and some key military installations in the North have been out of South Korea’s missile range.
South Korea announced Sunday that the U.S. accord has been altered to allow the South to have ballistic missiles with a range of up to 500 miles to better cope with North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.
“The most important objective for our government in revising the missile guideline is to contain North Korea’s armed provocation,” senior presidential official Chun Yung-woo told a news conference.
The Defense Ministry said in a statement that it will greatly increase its missile capability under the new accord, adding that South Korea will be able to “strike all of North Korea, even from southern areas.”
President Barack Obama’s press secretary Jay Carney, speaking to reporters traveling with Obama to California on Sunday, said “The revisions are of prudent, proportional and specific response” to North Korea). He said they came out of ongoing regular consultations with South Korea on the threat from the North.
The deal also will allow South Korea to operate drone aircraft carrying payloads of up to 2,500 kilograms (5,510 pounds) with a range of more than 300 kilometers (186 miles). It places no restriction on payloads for drones with a flying distance of less than 300 kilometers, officials said.
South Korea can also possess cruise missiles with an unlimited range as long as their payload is less than 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds). Media reports say the South has deployed cruise missiles with a range of more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) but defense officials have refused to confirm that.
Cruise missiles fly at a lower altitude and slower speed than ballistic missiles, making them easier to intercept, although they are considered more accurate.
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