South Korea and the United States have agreed to open negotiations to revise a bilateral ballistic missile guideline to allow the former to develop a more powerful missile amid North Korea's continued provocations, Seoul's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said Saturday.
President Moon Jae-in instructed his government to begin bilateral consultations to rewrite the guideline that bans Seoul from developing ballistic missiles with a range of over 800 kilometers and a payload exceeding 500 kilograms, said Yoon Young-chan, his chief press secretary.
In a phone call, Chung Eui-young, top presidential security adviser, made an official proposal to his U.S. counterpart H.R. McMaster to open negotiations over the revision, and McMaster agreed, Yoon said.
The agreement came hours after the North fired off what it claims to have been an intercontinental ballistic missile in a stinging blow to Moon's pursuit of dialogue and rapprochement with the wayward regime.
The focus of the negotiations is expected to be on doubling the payload weight limit to 1 ton, a source said, declining to be named.
"During the summit between the allies' leaders, there was a discussion regarding the payload part (in the guideline), and (the negotiations) will be in line with that," Yoon said.
"It is fair to say that more weight will be given to the payload part rather than the missile range issue," he added.
The allies last revised the guideline in 2012 amid Pyongyang's persistent missile threats and growing calls for reducing the "missile gap" with the provocative regime.
The guideline was first signed in 1979 and revised in 2001 and then 2012.
The revision has been a source of controversy as opponents here argue that it could provoke neighboring countries, including China and Russia. But Seoul asserted the need for it based on national security grounds. (Yonhap)