On July 28th, South Korea announced that it had become capable of developing improved solid-fuel rockets under new missile guidelines for the US.
Officially, this is for ‘space rockets,’ but it is more than obvious that this relates to improved solid-fuel missiles.
The US agreed to lift the decades-old restrictions on Seoul’s use of solid fuels for its space rocket launch, effective as of the day, according to Kim Hyun-chong, deputy national security adviser.
Solid fuel offers greater mobility for missiles and rockets, and reduces launch preparation time. But Washington had imposed strict restrictions on Seoul’s use of solid propellant for space launch rockets out of concern that it could be used to produce bigger missiles and cause a regional arms race.
The time for that has passed, and a regional arms race is likely what will happen.
Kim said the revised agreement still bars South Korea from having a missile with a range of more than 800 kilometers. But he said Seoul can discuss altering that restriction with Washington if that’s needed for South Korean national security.
Kim said solid fuel is much cheaper than liquid fuel and is more useful in times of lifting low-earth orbit satellites.
One of the best applications for that is for Seoul to launch low-orbit reconnaissance satellites, since it currently has none.
Lee Choon Geun, a missile expert at South Korea’s Science and Technology Policy Institute, said South Korea could use two or three low-earth orbit satellites fired by solid propellant-based rockets to better monitor North Korea.
Korea’s missile guidelines with the U.S., meanwhile, have been amended four times, including the latest revision, since the first agreement in 1979 to limit Korea’s ballistic missile development capabilities.
The previous revision was in September 2017 and lifted ban on missile payload while restricting Korea`s ballistic missile range to 800 kilometers. As mentioned earlier that may change in due time.
There is yet no published response from North Korea, but it is unlikely to be taken lightly. The claims that this restriction was lifted only to develop space capability also holds little water.
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