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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 42, December 1999

US Officials Discuss South Korean Missile Plans

US and South Korean officials have been discussing Seoul's desire to develop missiles with a range in excess of the maximum specified in a 1979 agreement between the two sides - originally 112 miles, subsequently extended to 187 miles, the cap set by the 32-state MTCR which the US would like to see South Korea join. As reported in the last News Review, media reports have suggested that South Korea has not been keeping the US informed of a programme to develop a missile with a range variously reported as being between 312 and 416 miles, in either case capable of striking anywhere in North Korea. South Korea has strongly denied this allegation.

On November 21, the US Embassy in Seoul issued a statement noting that "discussions on the…missile issue" had been "productive and concrete…bringing the…positions closer together. Some differences remain, however, which the US hopes will be resolved as soon as possible." The senior US official in the talks was special envoy on arms control and non-proliferation issues Robert Einhorn, who stated on November 19 that while the US was treating South Korea's request in a "very sympathetic way," any new missile development programme would have to be commensurate with the "needs of peace and stability on the Korean peninsular." The same day, an unnamed South Korean Foreign Ministry official was quoted as telling reporters: "The United States wants close checks and information in every stage of our side's missile development."

In Washington on November 23, after the thirty-first Republic of Korea-US Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) headed by Secretary of Defense William Cohen and Minister of National Defense Cho Seong Tae, a joint communiqué noted simply: "Both Ministers agreed that adjusting the ROK's current voluntary restraint on missiles should be accomplished as soon as possible in accordance with the MTCR guidelines."

On November 24, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang featured a commentary in the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper as warning: "If the South Korean rulers persist in their desperate moves to develop ballistic missiles despite our warnings, we will take a stronger countermeasure against it."

Reports: Washington to consider Seoul's demand to develop long-range missile, Xinhua, November 18; US, S. Korea open missile talks, Associated Press, November 18; S. Korea eyes missile development, Associated Press, November 19; S. Korea-US missile talks see progress but no deal, Reuters, November 21; N. Korea warns South over missiles, Associated Press, November 24; Text - US-Republic of Korea Joint Communiqué on security meeting, United States Information Service, November 24.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.

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