News

Pacific Stars And Stripes
July 30, 1999
Pg. 1

U.S. To Discuss S. Korea’s Wish For New Missile

By Jim Lea, Stripes Osan Bureau Chief

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — The United States agreed Wednesday to hold working-level talks with South Korea on Seoul’s request to develop longer-range missiles capable of striking much of North Korea.

The agreement was reached at a meeting between U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Robert Einhorn, Washington’s chief arms proliferation expert, and Song Min-soon, head of the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry’s North can Affairs Bureau in Seoul. No date was set on when the talks would begin.

Einhorn arrived in Seoul on Tuesday to coincide with U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen’s visit to the country.

Cohen arrived at Korea’s K-16 Air Base, in the capital’s southern suburbs, late Wednesday from Tokyo. He was to meet with U.S. officials and with Defense Minister Cho Song-tae on Thursday on a number of security issues, including the expected launch of a Taepodong-2 missile by North Korea. South Korea’s request to develop longer-range missiles likely will be on the agenda.

The agreement apparently came as a result of a July 2 meeting in Washington between President Clinton and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung. At the meeting, Kim told Clinton that Seoul wants to develop missiles with a range of at least 300 miles to enable it to hit targets anywhere in the North.

Pyongyang has deployed Rodong-1 missiles that can reach anywhere in the South. The United States and Seoul believe North Korea is developing the Taepodong series of weapons, which could strike throughout Japan and possibly as far away as Alaska, Guam and Hawaii.

Seoul has been limited by an agreement with Washington to produce missiles with a range of no more than 110 miles. South Korea made that agreement in the 1970s in order to receive U.S. missile technology. But those limited-range missiles can target about only half of North Korea.

The agreement to discuss the longer-range weapons comes at a time when tensions are high in Northeast Asia because officials believe Pyongyang is preparing to launch a Taepodong-2 missile, with a range of up to 3,700 miles. Washington, Seoul and Tokyo have warned Pyongyang not to fire the missile, saying the North will suffer severe economic and diplomatic consequences if it does.

But the warnings have had little effect, as Pyongyang contends that the missile it will launch will be for the purpose of putting a satellite into orbit. Such a launch is its sovereign right, Pyongyang has said.

In other news, South Korea announced that it will buy 100 AGM-142 missiles from the United States.

The missile, which is fired from F-16 jet fighters, can target missile bases and artillery positions with pinpoint accuracy, a source with the Defense Ministry said. It can also be used against ships.

The decision to buy the AGM-142 missiles was necessary in view of the North’s expanding missile development program, the Defense Ministry source said. While buying the missiles had been under discussion for some time, the source said, the decision was made following the June 15 battle between South and North Korean military vessels in the Yellow Sea.