His admission raises questions over whether S. Korea is in violation of an U.S.-S. Korea agreement to ban long-range missile development
Byun Moo-keun, the head of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), confirmed that it has conducted research into developing long-range ballistic missiles that can cover the entire territory of North Korea, Oct. 8.
Byun’s confirmation during the parliamentary audit and inspection on DAPA is the first admission by a high-level government official that South Korea has been carrying out long-range ballistic missile defense research. Under an agreement with the U.S. that emerged in the 1970s, South agreed to set its missile range ceiling at 180 kilometers (km). This ceiling was revised in 2001, however, former Prime Minister Han Seung-soo had addressed the National Assembly earlier this year in April about the possibility of further revising the South Korea-U.S. missile guidelines in response to North Korea’s advancements in long-range missile technology.
Grand National Party Lawmaker Kim Young-woo had asked, “Has DAPA conducted research into developing 500 km range ballistic missiles that can cover the entire territory of North Korea?” To which Byun replied “Yes” when he was questioned.
When asked about a timeline for the research completion, Byun replied, “This is a national security matter, and I will reply to this question during the audit on the National Defense and Science Institute (NDSI) under the condition that the results are not disclosed to the public.”
Analysts are saying that this remark from Byun was tactfully offered in light of South Korea-U.S. relations because any affirmative response on his part demonstrates that South Korea is in possible violation of a agreement between the two countries on limiting South Korea’s missile development. According to the agreement, South Korea is permitted to only develop missiles with a maximum range of 300 km.
Byun appeared to be aware of possible ramifications the research had on the agreement in comments he made afterwards, “This research is only indicative of information gathering, which is not the same as systemic development.”
Meanwhile, another high level-government official commented on the matter and said, “There is no restriction for conducting missile defense research for missiles that have a range over 300 km.” The official added, “We are obligated to discuss plans with the U.S. only when we have decided to build a prototype.”
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