US is in discussions with South Korea on increasing the size of warheads on it ballistic missiles that could meet the challenges of North Korea's improved missile capability.
South Korea is focusing on increasing warhead payload, rather than expanding missile range. The raising of missile range would only invite strong opposition from China, Russia and Japan, various local media reported Tuesday.
It is believed a 1,000-kilogram or 1-ton warhead would be strong enough to destroy the underground bunker of the North Korean elite, facilities that are built with a special material tougher than concrete.
Missiles in South Korea's arsenal have limits on warhead size and range, but the United States supports expanding Seoul's defense capabilities, Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said.
The present guidelines for South Korean missiles were established in October 2012, under the Obama administration. The measures allowed Seoul to develop ballistic missiles with a range of up to 500 miles, up from 186 miles in the last agreement. The payload permitted was 500 kilograms.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in recently requested US President Donald Trump to grant permission for a payload of up to 1,000 kilograms.
Both the countries, however, will be addressing these issues directly at the annual ROK-U.S. Security Consultative Meeting, or SCM, in October.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung-hwa met on Sunday during the ASEAN Regional Forum in Manila and agreed to begin preliminary negotiations.
“The heavier payload could also increase missile engine power, which could subsequently increase the range of the projectile.” South Korean analyst Kim Dong-yup said.