The United States has agreed to allow South Korea to possess longer-range missiles that could strike all of North Korea, officials said today, a development expected to draw an angry response from the North. Under a 2001 accord with Washington, South Korea has been barred from developing 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 range.
South Korea announced today that the US 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. 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. It places no restriction on payloads for drones with a flying distance of less than 186 miles. "These revisions are a prudent, proportional, and specific response to the (North Korean) ballistic missile threat," says a Pentagon spokesman. North Korean state media didn't immediately respond. (Read more North Korea stories.)