Under the 1979 US-ROK Accord, updated in 2001, South Korea is restricted from developing missiles with “a range of up to 300 kilometers and a payload of up to 500 kilograms.” The map below illustrates this current range:

300-km range from South Korea's borders

300-km range from South Korea's borders (click for full-size)

 

South Korea, however, is unhappy with the current limits and would like to be able to “extend it beyond 1,000 kilometers,” according JoongAng Daily’s government source.

What would 1000 km include? Have a look:

1000-km range from South Korea's borders

1000-km range from South Korea's borders

 

While GI Korea at ROK Drop suggests that the limits might be in place to prevent South Korea from legitimising the North’s missile programme through pursuing one of its own, it is hard to dismiss the notion that the US is unwilling to put Tokyo in range of South Korean missiles.

It also raises the question of just why South Korea requires missiles capable of hitting targets over 1000-km away. The projections above are deceptive in that they show range from South Korea’s borders.* It is most likely that South Korea just wants to able to strike anywhere in the North from bases anywhere in South Korea.

However, could it also be forward planning? Beijing would also be within Seoul’s sights, for whatever that’s worth. Regardless of South Korea’s intentions, just giving it a capability that might raise Chinese ire is reason enough for the US to want to keep a lid on those missiles.

 

Note on maps:
*The overlays showing the ranges as measured from South Korea’s approximate borders. This would mean that the furthest reaches of the range would require launchers to be placed near the border or DMZ making them extremely vulnerable. Thus, in reading the maps, it is necessary to subtract a South Korea-sized range in order to account for a more practical range.
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A former contributor to World Intelligence (Japan Military Review), James Simpson joined Japan Security Watch in 2011, migrating with his blog Defending Japan. He has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and is currently living in Kawasaki, Japan. His primary interests include the so-called 'normalization' of Japanese security (i.e. militarization), and the political impact of the abduction issue with North Korea.
James Simpson has 254 post(s) on Japan Security Watch