- The Washington Times - Monday, August 7, 2017

The Pentagon is weighing whether or not to amend weapons development guidelines with South Korea, to allow the country to create ballistic missiles that can fly further and hit harder than any current weapon in the country’s nuclear arsenal.

The restrictions outlined under a bilateral arms pact between Washington and Seoul caps South Korean ballistic missiles to carry a nuclear payload no larger than 1,100 pounds and limits the weapon’s range to just under 500 miles. But in the wake of two historically successful tests by North Korea of its burgeoning intercontinental ballistic missile program, Defense Department officials are concerned Seoul’s capabilities may be no match for Pyongyang’s rapidly developing nuclear arsenal.

The issue of allowing South Korea to press forward with more long-range and lethal ballistic missiles is under serious consideration by top Defense Department leaders, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said Monday. “As the [North Korea] threat grows, as the threat changes, we will adapt to it,” he told reporters Monday, noting the security relationship between Washington and Seoul has repeatedly adapted and changed in the past.

His comments come days after members of the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved fresh sanctions against North Korea, which will effectively eliminate a third of Pyongyang’s revenues from foreign trade.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, who is in the Philippines attending the latest round of meetings with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, heralded the council’s decision as “a good outcome” in the wake of North Korea’s nuclear tests.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who met Sunday with Mr. Tillerson and with North Korea’s top diplomat, publicly urged Pyongyang to “maintain calm” and “not violate the U.N.’s decision or provoke international society’s goodwill by conducting missile launching or nuclear tests.”

Pyongyang rattled Washington and its Pacific allies in July, after it conducted a pair of successful test shots of its intercontinental ballistic missile systems.

A July 3rd test of the Hwangsong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile flew higher and further than any previous test shots taken by North Korean forces, traveling a distance of over 500 miles and reaching a peak height of 1,700 miles.

Days later, as second missile shot on July 11 flew further and higher than the range achieved during the July 3 test, theoretically putting targets in Japan, South Korea and the west coast of the U.S. within range of the new weapon.

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