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Washington, Seoul agree to scrap warhead weight limit for South Korean missiles

05 September 2017
Washington and Seoul agreed on 4 September to lift the warhead weight limit for South Korean missiles. This image shows what appears to be an 800 km-range Hyeonmu-2C ballistic missile being fired from a truck-mounted launcher. Source: South Korean MND

In the wake of North Korea’s sixth and largest nuclear test to date, US President Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in have agreed to lift the warhead weight limit for South Korean missiles stipulated in US-South Korean guidelines.

During a 4 September telephone conversation, the two leaders also agreed to pursue a stronger UN Security Council resolution against North Korea and to actively respond to the communist regime’s provocations based on a “strong combined defence posture”, South Korea’s presidential office said in a statement, adding that they also decided to “thoroughly prepare” for possible future actions by Pyongyang.

In a separate statement issued on that same day, the White House said that two leaders also “agreed to maximise pressure on North Korea using all means at their disposal”. They also pledged to strengthen joint military capabilities, with Trump quoted by the White House as giving his “conceptual approval for the purchase of many billions of dollars’ worth of military weapons and equipment from the United States by South Korea”.

The next day, Trump announced on his Twitter account that he would allow both Japan and South Korea to buy “a substantially increased amount of highly sophisticated military equipment" from the United States.

The government in Seoul had been pushing for weeks to revise the US-South Korean missile guidelines to enhance the country's defence capabilities amid the growing threat posed by North Korea’s ongoing development of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

The original US-South Korean ballistic missile guidelines of 1997 only allowed South Korea to use the Hyunmoo-2A missile, which has a 300 km range while carrying a 500 kg warhead.

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