Over the past two weeks, during US Secretary of State Clinton and her entourages’ visits with the South Korean government, the Republic of Korea pushed to restart dialogues on guidelines restricting their missile ranges to three hundred kilometers. Seoul had hoped to revise these guidelines to allow ranges of up to one thousand kilometers.
On December 1st, Washington declined the revision, wishing to maintain South Korea’s current status within the Missile Technology Control Regime, as well as keeping South Korea from developing missiles capable of targeting Beijing.
Korean newspapers, US Hawks, and some security analysts have been in a minor uproar since Washington’s refusal in light of recent North Korean missile developments. What has become lost in translation or quickly omitted in most of this reporting is that the ROK already has plenty of missile capable of ranges beyond three hundred kilometers, they’re just not the type of large-scale, ballistic missiles that the guidelines exclude:
The Hyunmu IIIC (현무-3C) cruise missile far exceeds the ranges set by the Missile Technology Control Regime because of a loophole that disregards range considerations as long as the warheads fall under 500 kilograms.
According to the Korea Herald’s 2010 article:
The missile with a 450-kilogram warhead measures 6 meters in length and 53-60 centimeters in diameter and weighs 1.5 tons. It can hit targets in all nuclear facilities and major missile bases in the communist state with high precision, experts said.
“With the range of 1,500 kilometers, the missile can practically attack all areas in the North. The missile, guided with the help of the global positioning system, can accurately hit the target with a margin of error of less than 2 meters,” said Shin In-kyun, a military expert who heads a civic group, called Korea Defence Network.
“We have now obtained the means to mount an attack when signs (of possible attacks from the North) are detected. The missile is not just for a war. It is meaningful in that we have secured deterrence capabilities.”
Experts say Hyunmu 3-C is comparable with the U.S.-made Tomahawk missile in its precision strike capability. Only South Korea, the U.S., Russia and Israel have developed cruise missiles with a range of 1,500 kilometers or more.
These missiles (and previous generations with 500 km to 1,000 km ranges) allow South Korea to reach targets throughout North Korea, most of Japan, and Beijing. The payload is a light 450 kilograms, but the tomahawk-esque systems allow for extreme precision and speed in the destruction of targets.
This author can’t find too much fault with Nationalistic Korean newspapers for leaving out details in hopes of rallying public opinions, but wishes that others going forward with that information would look deeper into South Korea’s actual missile range capabilities.
Ballistic missiles remain something of a “weapon of terror” in the eyes of the world, so he can understand the US’s wary feelings in regards to South Korean deployment and their relationship with China.
Of course, this Author is also for the ROK striking it out on its own and escaping the label of “52nd state,” so if ballistic missiles are what they want, well, go nuts with that. He would also like to remind the ROK that they can always covertly work on ballistic missile programs under the guise of their space program, much like their sibling to the north does.
Until then, he just wishes people would stop throwing out “300 meters” as the ROK’s missile range capability, as the inability to even hit parts of North Korea at that limit makes both the United States and South Korea look stupid.
Craig was born & raised in the United States, having recently returned there after over five years in Asia. He is currently pursuing further education in the realms of East Asian Studies and Politics. Craig is an avid fan of the political, economic, and military machinations occurring throughout the Asian continent and how those turning gears affect the rest of the world. He's currently covering both North and South Korea for Asia Security Watch, enjoying shedding light on to this far-too-often ignored slice of Asia.
Craig Scanlan has 82 post(s) on Asia Security Watch