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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 231 (October 11, 2012)
*** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 1)

South Korea Will Cover Whole North Korea with Ballistic Missiles

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States reached a new missile agreement on Oct. 7 that allows Seoul to develop longer-range ballistic missiles capable of striking all of North Korea with stronger warheads, a breakthrough alongside constant threats from the socialist nation.

   Under the agreement, Seoul can increase the range of South Korea's ballistic missiles up to 800 kilometers from the current restriction of 300 km, in the first amendment to the military pact in 11 years.

   The agreement, known as the "missile guideline," allows South Korea to load its ballistic missiles with warheads heavier than the current limit of 500 kilograms on the condition their ranges decrease in proportion, in another key part of the agreement known as a "trade-off" clause, presidential security aide Chun Yung-woo said.

   The guideline also increased the maximum load weight for a South Korean unmanned aerial vehicle to 2.5 tons from the current 500 kg. This is also considered significant because unmanned aircraft can be loaded with weapons for attack purposes.

   "The most important purpose our government placed on revising the missile guideline lies in deterring armed provocations by North Korea," Chun told reporters. "We will secure effective and various means to incapacitate North Korea's nuclear and missile capabilities and safeguard the lives and safety of our people if North Korea launches armed attacks."

   The agreement is expected to significantly strengthen Seoul's deterrence against the North. Ballistic missiles with the extended range would put the whole of North Korea within reach if they were launched from South Korea's central city of Daejeon.

   Should missiles be launched from bases closer to North Korea, such as Gyeonggi Province surrounding Seoul, they could still strike the whole of North Korea but carrying heavier payloads, thanks to the "trade-off" clause.

   Warheads of up to 1.5 tons can be put on missiles if the range remains at 300 km, Chun said. He also said South Korea can strike all currently existing North Korean missile bases with missiles whose ranges are 500 km or more, but Seoul sought to further extend its range to prepare for North Korea building new bases.

   South Korea and the United States first signed the agreement in 1979 after Washington requested it because of concern about missile proliferation.

   The deal initially put a 180 km cap on the range of South Korean missiles. That limit was extended to 300 km when the deal was last revised in 2001, in exchange for Seoul's accession to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), an international anti-missile proliferation regime.

   The maximum payload weight remained at 500 kg until the latest revision. "Our government reaffirms that it will faithfully comply with the norms of the international missile nonproliferation regime MTCR, and maintain maximum transparency in missile development in the future," Chun said.

   Since last year, Seoul and Washington have held negotiations to rewrite the agreement that was set to expire at the end of this year.

   South Korea's missile capabilities pale compared with North Korea's. The North has actively pursued missile development, along with nuclear weapons development.

   The socialist country is believed to have more than 1,000 short-, medium- and long-range missiles. Experts say the North's most advanced Taepodong series missiles could even reach parts of the United States.

   Maj. Gen. Shin Won-sik, policy planning director at the Ministry of National Defense, said the agreement will significantly strengthen Seoul's deterrence against the North without posing a threat to neighboring countries, such as China and Japan.

   He said warheads of up to 2 tons can be put on missiles if the range remains at 300 kilometers. "Nearly all of the North's major military targets are located within 300 kilometers of the border," Shin said, adding that a 1-ton bomb can destroy a target the size of 100 football grounds.

   He said the missile guideline with the U.S. does not restrict the South from researching and developing missiles with greater payloads and ranges. "There is no restriction on Korea's research and development of missiles with a range greater than 800 kilometers, including the production of a prototype," Shin said.

   South Korea's latest missile deal with the United States, albeit belated, is a significant step forward in deterring North Korean aggression after the country relied on the U.S. for longer-range missiles for decades, experts say.

   "This is significant in that we can dramatically bolster our deterrence against North Korea," said Kim Tae-woo, a top security and defense expert in South Korea. Kim, who heads the Korea Institute for National Unification, said such a deal is long overdue.

   He stressed the gap in asymmetrical warfare capabilities between South Korea and North Korea has widened too much as the communist nation ceaselessly pursues nuclear and missile programs, and the latest deal is expected to help narrow that. "Above all, I believe this will contribute to peaceful coexistence and prosperity between the South and the North."
The extended range could have implications for regional security as it puts parts of Japan and China within striking distance as well. South Korea has already notified China, Japan and Russia of the extended range, officials said.

   Pyongyang has honed its missile technology through a series of long-range missile or rocket tests, including one last April. Pyongyang claimed the April lift-off was a satellite launch but drew strong international condemnation as it was believed to be a cover for testing missile technology. The North is banned from any ballistic missile testing under U.N. Security Council resolutions.

   Meantime, the White House sought to limit the impact of the new missile deal with South Korea on its global nonproliferation efforts and regional security conditions in which China plays a growing role.

   "The ROK's new missile guidelines are designed to improve the Republic of Korea's ability to defend against DPRK (North Korea) ballistic missiles," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters. "The revisions are a prudent, proportional and specific response to the DPRK."

   Carney was responding to a reporter's question about the South Korean presidential office's announcement. "As partners whose alliance is a linchpin of stability in northeast Asia, we take seriously our mission of maintaining stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the region," Carney said.

   "The United States remains firmly committed to our alliance and to the defense of the Republic of Korea. In this context, we have been in discussions with the Republic of Korea, at its request, on ways to address the threat posed by DPRK ballistic missiles."

   It is an open secret the U.S. had been reluctant to let South Korea sharply increase its ballistic missile range out of concern for a negative effect on its nonproliferation campaign. The U.S. especially does not want to antagonize China.

   Neighboring countries, including Russia, China and Japan, had no immediate response to the missile guideline amendment, but China's official news agency Xinhua expressed concern. "The extension, however, runs counter to a global arms control agreement known as the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), an informal and voluntary association of 34 countries with a goal of stopping the spread of unmanned delivery systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction," it reported.

   In 2001, South Korea joined the MTCR, an informal and voluntary partnership among 34 countries to prevent the proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction.

   Meanwhile, North Korea on Oct. 9 sharply criticized Seoul for its agreement with Washington to nearly triple its missile range, calling it a preparation for invasion. In its first response, North Korea slammed the pact as designed to launch an invasion into the North, vowing equal retaliation against any attack.

   A spokesman for the National Defense Commission reiterated that the U.S. mainland and Guam, as well as Japan and South Korea are within the North's missile range.

   "We are well prepared to fight with nuclear (weapons) against any nuclear (attacks) by the U.S. and its followers or with missiles against missiles," the spokesman said in a statement carried by the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

   The spokesman also vowed to launch all-out efforts to intensify the nation's war preparedness, saying, "We have only resolute actions left as our last option and will show the real bitterness of war that the world has never known or imagined."

   Calling the missile agreement "a result of the collusion between a master and a subordinate," the spokesman also said in a separate dispatch carried by the (North) Korean Central TV Broadcasting Station that the pact is aimed at invading the socialist country.

   "The latest missile policy announcement is designed to bring the condition of the Korean Peninsula to extremes and light the fuse to randomly invade and wage a war with the North," the TV station reported.

   The missile agreement made clear the U.S.'s hostile policy stance toward the North, the North said, vowing to toughen its efforts to fight the United States.

   The U.S. government issued a terse response on Oct. 9 to North Korea's warning that its missiles can reach the U.S. mainland, saying Pyongyang should first take care of its people in need.

   "Well, certainly, rather than bragging about its missile capability, they ought to be feeding their own people, would be our first comment," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a press briefing.

   The socialist nation "needs to understand that it will achieve nothing by threats or provocations," Nuland said, adding, "That's only going to undermine their efforts to get back in the conversation with the international community."

   Nuland defended Washington's decision to allow Seoul to bolster its missile capability despite concerns over a regional arms race. "These changes in missile guidance are defensive in nature," she said.

   Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed worries over Pyongyang's missile threats. "I read the report and it is quite an alarming statement," he was quoted as saying by the French news agency AFP.

   "They should contribute to the reduction of tensions and this will only heighten tensions and create further distrust between South and North Korea."

   In a related development, a senior Seoul official said South Korea plans to mass produce and deploy ballistic missiles capable of striking any target within North Korea by 2017.

   "The military has set aside 2.4 trillion won (US$2.16 billion) for the development and deployment of missiles with ranges of 550 and 800 kilometers for the next five years," the official said on condition of anonymity.

   The official said the defense ministry has included 500 billion won explicitly for this plan in its proposal for next year's budget of 34.6 trillion won to the government.

   A senior military official confirmed the plan, saying the deployment of longer range missiles can be shortened to three to four years because the country has accumulated nearly all the necessary technology to make them.

   Defense ministers of South Korea and the United States are expected to discuss how to integrate the Korean Air and Missile Defense System with the U.S. satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles to better counter North Korean missile attacks in the upcoming Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) slated for later this month in Washington.