Choe Sang-Hun, New York Times
4 June 2015
SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea successfully test-fired its first ballistic missile on Wednesday with a range far enough to hit any part of North Korea, Defense Ministry officials said.
With President Park Geun-hye watching, two missiles blasted off from a test site on the west coast of South Korea. The government released a photograph of a missile being fired from a tube mounted on what appeared to be a vehicle, suggesting that the model tested was a prototype for a mobile missile system.
South Korea has been developing a new ballistic missile since the United States agreed in 2012 to allow it to extend the range of those arms up to 800 kilometers, or about 500 miles, enough to reach any target in North Korea but not to threaten China or Japan.
Until then, mutually agreed-upon guidelines had barred South Korea from deploying ballistic missiles with a range of more than 185 miles and a payload of more than 500 kilograms, or 1,100 pounds.
A Defense Ministry spokesman, citing ministry policy, declined to reveal the range and payload of the missiles tested on Wednesday, except to say that they had a range sufficient to hit anywhere in North Korea. But South Korean news media, citing unidentified military sources, reported that the new missiles, code-named Hyunmoo-2B, had a range of more than 310 miles and a payload of 2,200 pounds.
South Korea’s national news agency, Yonhap, said one or more of the new missiles would be deployed as early as late this year.
Ms. Park observed the test on Wednesday to “view South Korea’s key military capabilities to counter North Korea’s threats,” said the president’s spokesman, Min Kyung-wook.
North Korea has an arsenal of ballistic missiles that can reach all of South Korea and Japan, the two major allies of the United States in the region. It is also developing an intercontinental ballistic missile. Fears of its missile capacity have grown since it claimed in May that it had successfully test-fired a missile from a submarine. It also claimed that it has been building nuclear warheads small enough to be mounted on a long-range missile.
When the United States agreed to revise its missile guidelines for South Korea in 2012, it tried to balance its fear of a regional arms race with South Korea’s concern over growing military threats from the North. Some installations in North Korea have been out of the range of South Korea’s old ballistic missiles.
Under the revised guidelines, South Korea can deploy ballistic missiles with a range of up to 500 miles as long as their payloads do not exceed 1,100 pounds. It can also load warheads weighing as much as 4,400 pounds on ballistic missiles with shorter ranges.