Seoul (AFP) April 10, 2000 - US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Einhorn will hold talks with South Korean officials here early next week on Seoul's bid to extend the ranges of its missiles, officials said Friday.
The visit comes after South Korea threatened to scrap plans to buy US-made multiple-launch rockets worth 1.2 billion dollars to protest Washington's reluctance to allow Seoul to develop new ballistic weapons.
Einhorn is scheduled to meet with Song Min-Soon, director general of the foreign ministry's North American affairs bureau, on Monday and with defense ministry officials the next day, a foreign ministry official said.
"They will exchange opinions on the missile-range issue," the official said, adding that Einhorn, assistant secretary of state for non-proliferation, would fly into Seoul on Sunday.
Seoul's defence ministry warned Washington on Monday that it may scrap the purchase of new rockets amid alleged US attempts to "force Seoul to accept unacceptable terms, delaying agreement on our bid to extend missile ranges."
The weapons orders that Seoul has threatened to scrap form part of a multiple launch rocket system worth a total 1.5 billion dollars. Seoul has already bought some 300 million dollars of US-made weaponry.
But the deal has apparently come under the shadow of the long-running wrangle over Seoul's missile range capability.
The United States and South Korea have yet to reach an accord on Seoul's bid to enhance its missile ranges from 180 kilometres (111 miles) to 300 kilometers for military purposes, and to 500 kilometers for research reasons.
Seoul, in a 1970s agreement with Washington, voluntarily set its missile range limit at 180 kilometers in return for access to US missile technology.
But the country now wants to boost the range of its missiles to cope with North Korea's military threat. The United States, however, fears the possibility of an arms race in the volatile region.
The two Koreas have remained technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended in a fragile armistice.
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