Beijing (China Daily/ANN) - The Washington-Seoul agreement on extending the range of Seoul's ballistic missiles offers another channel for the United States to boost its military presence in Northeast Asia, analysts said, warning of possible tensions brought about by the updated agreement.
Seoul plans to deploy the new ballistic missiles in five years, the country's media reported yesterday, after South Korea and the US pledged to extend the range of Seoul's ballistic missiles from 300 kilometres and 800 km on Sunday.
With the agreement, the US has attempted to increase its own military presence in Northeast Asia by improving South Korea's military power, said Jin Canrong, an expert on global affairs at the Renmin University of China.
Domestic economic problems at home, and ongoing tensions with Arab countries have put further pressure on the US in its efforts at increasing its presence in the Asia-Pacific region, so Washington is seeking support from its allies in the region, he said.
Qu Xing, president of the China Institute of International Studies, added that the US hopes South Korea can share the burden of a large defence budget, while increasing Washington's military presence in the region.
As a result, he warned of the possibility of an escalation in military tension on the Korean Peninsula, between South Korea and North Korea.
South Korea plans to deploy new ballistic missiles with a range of 550 km and 800 km in five years, reported South Korean Yonhap News Agency, citing an anonymous official yesterday.
According to the unnamed source, South Korea military has budgeted 2.4 trillion won (US$2.15 billion) for the planned deployment, while still waiting for parliamentary approval for 500 billion won in spending from next year. South Korea military did not confirm the report.
The extended range can now cover all territory of North Korea and reach China, Russia and Japan, and will trigger great concern from those countries, according to media reports.
Wang Junsheng, an expert on East Asian studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the agreement will worsen already tense relations between South Korea and North Korea.
Qu added that the extension of the missile reach would further accelerate the arms race on the Korean Peninsula, and feeling the imbalance of military power, North Korea would accordingly increase counter-military measures, which will bring more difficulties to the denuclearisation and disarmament of any ballistic missiles.
Richard Bush, director of the Brookings Centre for Northeast Asian Policy Studies, told Yonhap News Agency that the approval by US international security experts meant that South Korea can now increase its ability to contain North Korea.
But Christopher Nelson, author of a daily communique of international events Nelson Report, also told Yonhap that reaching the new agreement was unavoidable, given that South Korea's neighbours are developing their own weapons including missiles.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said yesterday at a regular news briefing that China does not wish to see an escalated military confrontation on the Korean Peninsula.
It is an obligation of all parties involved to maintain peace and stability on the peninsula, realise denuclearisation and avoid the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Hong said.
He reiterated China's stance of solving issues concerning the peninsula through dialogue, and called for all parties to make greater efforts to ease the situation.
Chun Young-woo, a top foreign and security affairs adviser to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, told reporters that the most important aim in revising the missile guidelines was deterring the North Korea's military provocation.
The US also denied that its agreement to extend South Korea's missile range was aimed at parties other than North Korea, and said it was designed to improve the South Korea's ability to defend itself against North Korea ballistic missiles.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Sunday in Washington: "The revisions are a prudent, proportional and specific response to North Korea."
Wang Junsheng added that besides deterring North Korea, it also sends a message from Washington to Beijing that China should force North Korea to give up its nuclear programme.