According to a communication earlier today from the office of the President of the Republic of Korea (ROK), US President Donald Trump and ROK President Moon Jae-in reached an agreement to modify their bilateral ballistic missile treaty to uncap the production of ROKs ballistic missiles like the South had earlier wished to do.
South Korea’s production of its ballistic missiles is restricted to the range of 800 km and payload capacity to 500 kg according to a bilateral treaty signed in 2012. South Korea’s Blue House, the official residence of the ROK President in Seoul, said that the two leaders spoke on the phone earlier today regarding the immediate need to guard against what they saw as increased North Korean provocations.
Trump also gave “conceptual” authorization for the purchase of billions of dollars worth of US military equipment to Seoul according to the White House. South Korea wants to up its missile cap to increase its capabilities to defend itself against aggressive military posturing by North Korea which is developing advanced missile and nuclear capabilities while defying international pressure and UN sanctions. Both the Koreas are technically still at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a ceasefire and not in a peace treaty.
Earlier this week the North greatly escalated tensions by launching its Hwasong-12 IRBM over Japanese airspace. This was after the testing of two long range ballistic missiles in July in quite a raised trajectory that showed a probable range of 10000 km or more which would put parts of the continental US within range. Pyongyang has been trying to produce a nuclear capable missile capable of striking the American homeland and recently threatened to launch missiles towards the waters near the US territory of Guam in the Pacific.
The ROK and the US earlier signed the missile treaty as part of a pledge to a voluntary international arms control agreement known as the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) directed at curtailing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and missiles.
Early on during his presidential campaign Trump said he was all right withdrawing the nuclear and security umbrella that the US provides for South Korea and Japan without which both countries could go nuclear within a month if their security is threatened. It would lead to a very volatile situation as China and Russia too would have to intervene if such a scenario occurs.