Thursday, October 8, 2009

South Korea studying ballistic missile with improved range

South Korea's top arms procurement official acknowledged Thursday his government has begun researching a ballistic missile that can put all of North Korea in its striking range. South Korea voluntarily restricts itself from developing a missile with a range of over 300km and a payload of 500kg, a ban supported by the U.S., which fears a regional arms race.

But a recent series of missile tests by North Korea has prompted South Korean officials to publicly challenge the ban. Lee Sang-eui, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last month that his country needs to step up its efforts to match the threat of North Korean missiles.

Responding to a question at a parliamentary inspection, Byun Moo-keun, head of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, admitted his organization is conducting research into a missile with a range of over 500km. But Byun declined to give details, saying, "It is a matter that warrants security," and promised to brief lawmakers during a closed session at a later date.

Until 2001, South Korea was limited to 180km in missile range under an agreement with the U.S., which has 28,500 troops stationed here as a deterrent against North Korea.

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