Last month, the U.S. administration lifted the limits on Seoul’s missile program, whose range was about 500 miles. This is a far-reaching change as theoretically South Korean ballistic missiles can now reach China, Russia and further. The Wall Street Journal was the first to report the news. This move will allow Washington to keep an eye on North Korea and China, two countries who have been accelerating their military arsenal, without moving its own weapons.
During a meeting in May, in Washington, South Korean President Moon Jae-in met President Biden to discuss an end to flight range limitations that were put in place in 1979. The U.S. had provided South Korea with technologies and relevant components to manufacture its own missiles. There were extensions in flight range in 2001 and 2012 as South Korea’s neighbors began to develop their nuclear arsenal.
The Asia-Pacific region has seen escalated tensions as China tries to assert its dominance in the region. North Korea has never been deterred by U.S. sanctions and has been building its nuclear missiles with help from friendly allies. South Korea has been advocating the lift of military limits from quite a while and has finally reached its goal.
The Biden administration is looking at the prospect of increased conflict in the region as China tries to exert extra influence at the South China Sea and Taiwan has been a flashpoint from quite a while between the two superpowers. The withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan is also a reason why the U.S. is looking to strengthen ties and increase its presence and influence in the region.
On Thursday, during a Senate Armed Services hearing Lloyd Austin, U.S.’s Defense Secretary told the members that North Korea has continued to build up its nuclear and ballistic missile capability. This poses a threat to both the U.S. and its allies.
The current dispensing of missile range for South Korea’s missile programs by the U.S. has got a strong reaction from both North Korea and China who see it as a cause for increasing the arms race and tensions in the Asia-Pacific. However, Anthony Blinken spoke to his counterpart Yang Jiechi on Friday and reiterated the importance of U.S. and Chinese cooperation to denuclearize and reduce tensions in the Korean Peninsula.