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.
Under the new agreement, South Korea will continue to limit the payload to 500 kilograms for ballistic missiles with an 800-kilometer range, but it will be able to use heavier payloads for missiles with shorter ranges, senior presidential official Chun Yung-woo told a news conference. The heavier a payload is, the more destructive power it can have.
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 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 5,510 pounds with a range of more than 186 miles, officials said.