WASHINGTON/SEOUL, May 21 (Joint Press Corps-Yonhap) — The upcoming summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden in Washington is expected to cover the topic of abolishing the guideline on Seoul’s missile use, officials said Thursday.
A senior Cheong Wa Dae official accompanying Moon on his U.S. trip told pool reporters that Seoul’s diplomatic and security officials have had the “will and idea of resolving the issue of abolishing the missile guideline” before the end of the president’s term.
Moon will hold one-on-one talks with Biden at the White House on Friday (local time), as the allies have a range of pending issues to coordinate, especially on North Korea, COVID-19 vaccines and global supply chain resilience.
“We’re hoping that we could produce a positive conclusion on that possibility tomorrow (in the South Korea-U.S. summit),” the official said, suggesting that an agreement on abolishing the guideline could potentially be reached.
South Korea is still prohibited from firing ballistic missiles with the range of over 800 kilometers under the alliance accord first signed in 1979. Seoul would be in complete control of its missile sovereignty for the first time in 42 years if the two leaders reach an agreement on terminating the guideline.
“The U.S.-South Korea missile guideline is now 42 years old. Back then, we decided to adopt missiles under U.S. control to obtain missile technology, but that has instead served as shackles,” the official explained.
The guideline was initially forged as the South sought to secure core technology and components for its missile development from the U.S., amid its heavy diplomatic and economic dependence on its superpower ally.
The U.S. initially limited the range to 180 km while banning Seoul from mounting a payload weighing more than 500 kg. The guideline was revised in 2001 and 2012 to extend the range to 300 km and 800 km, respectively, amid growing concerns about the missile gap with the North.
The guideline was revised twice under the Moon administration, in 2017 and 2020, first clearing the weight limit of warheads on ballistic missiles and later lifting the ban on using solid fuel for space launch vehicles.
Also, a joint declaration by Moon and Biden is expected to include a phrase that recognizes the landmark Panmunjom Declaration announced by Moon and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong-un, after their first summit in April 2018.
“As a means of expressing respect for and recognition of inter-Korean relations, the Panmunjom Declaration could be included (in the joint statement),” a Cheong Wa Dae official said.
The Panmunjom Declaration, reached in a summit at the namesake inter-Korean truce border village, calls for the two Koreas to cooperate in reducing tensions, expanding cross-border exchanges and working toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Little progress has been made since the no-deal summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump in early 2019.
The South Korean and U.S. leaders are also expected to discuss cooperation in the field of nuclear power.
“There is a possibility that the two presidents will discuss the topic of nuclear energy cooperation and announce the results,” a Cheong Wa Dae official said.
The two sides are reportedly considering various cooperative ideas, such as forging a technology partnership to do joint business in third countries.
“There are demands for nuclear power plant construction in the Middle East and Europe. If South Korea and the U.S. join hands, we could have a tremendous amount of competitiveness,” the official said.