South Korea gets rid of the restrictions on the use of solid fuels in launch vehicles. The United States hopes that South Korea will play a greater role.

The game behind the revision of the "Korea-US Missile Guide"

  The South Korean government announced on July 28 that South Korea and the United States adopted the revised 2020 "South Korea-US Missile Guide" that same day, lifting the restrictions on the use of solid fuels in South Korean launch vehicles. The "Korea-US Missile Guide" was signed in 1979 and has been revised three times before, revising the weight of the Korean cruise missile's warhead, the range of the ballistic missile, and the weight of the warhead. The revised versions in different periods are the result of a comprehensive game between South Korea, which seeks to develop its own national defense capabilities, and the United States, which strives to give play to South Korea’s role in its overall strategic layout. It is a realistic manifestation of the fierce struggle between control and anti-control in the positioning of the US-South Korea relationship. , There are complicated strategic considerations behind it.

  For a long time, South Korea has actively sought to break through the limitations of missile technology and develop missile capabilities. As early as 1978, South Korea transformed the imported US-made "Nike" air defense missile into a "Xuanwu"-1 tactical surface-to-surface missile with a range of 138 kilometers, and has since negotiated with the United States on the grounds of responding to regional threats. Requires independent development of missile technology. However, in the United States' view, the United States provides South Korea with "extended deterrence" and the US military in South Korea is capable of protecting South Korea. South Korea does not need to develop missile capabilities alone. The United States has also restricted the development of South Korea’s military power on the grounds of stabilizing the regional situation.

  However, under the boost of tension on the peninsula and repeated games between South Korea and the United States, South Korea’s missile capabilities have continued to leapfrog. In 1979, the two countries signed the first "South Korea-U.S. Missile Guide," allowing South Korea to develop ballistic missile technology, but the missile range must not exceed 180 kilometers. In 2001, the two sides revised the guidelines, and the range of South Korean missiles was increased to 300 kilometers and the payload did not exceed 500 kg. In 2012, South Korea and the United States revised the guidelines again to relax the range of South Korean missiles to 800 kilometers, and the payload of missiles with a range of 800 kilometers is limited to 500 kilograms, and the load can be appropriately increased if the range is less than 800 kilometers. In 2017, South Korea and the United States negotiated to lift the weight limit of the Korean military's missile warheads.

  In this process, the South Korean army accelerated the development of ballistic missiles, and reorganized the Army’s Ballistic Missile Command into the Missile Command, expanding the scope of functions, strengthening force building, and accelerating the development of missile capabilities. After the revision of the guidelines, the Korean military missiles can be filled with solid or solid-liquid mixed propellant, which will enhance the stability of the missile and increase the reaction speed, reduce the volume of the missile body, and improve the precision attack capability. South Korea can also break through previous restrictions on missile technology and launch low-orbit military reconnaissance satellites to enhance its autonomous intelligence and reconnaissance capabilities.

  The new version of the "Korea-US Missile Guide" is the result of a comprehensive game between Korea and the United States. In recent years, the United States has continuously consolidated the alliance between South Korea and the United States and promoted military integration between South Korea and the United States, and is unwilling to loosen its control over South Korea. After the Moon Jae-in government came to power, South Korea’s awareness of strategic autonomy has become increasingly strong. It regards the resumption of wartime combat command power as an important symbol of safeguarding national sovereignty, and seeks to develop independent military forces and fully realize independent national defense. "The ability of the Korean army to respond to North Korean nuclear and missile threats" is one of the important conditions for the transfer of wartime operational command. As the handover time approaches, South Korea’s "strategic strike system" and "Korea-type missile defense system" developed for this purpose require that ballistic missile capabilities be improved as soon as possible.

  In response to South Korea’s request to relax restrictions on missile range, warhead weight, and propellant, the current US government is happy to see South Korea take more responsibility for its own defense, but it hopes to take the opportunity to promote South Korea to play a greater role in the US geostrategy. Expand the scope of military cooperation between the two countries. For this reason, the United States has been promoting the revision of the "Korea-US Alliance Crisis Management Memorandum", requiring South Korea to support the United States' military activities outside South Korea when the United States needs it. In addition, the United States also urges South Korea to agree to the deployment of conventional land-based intermediate-range missiles, and to strive for greater benefits in expanding the "strategic flexibility" of the US military in South Korea, economic and trade arms sales to South Korea, and the sharing of defense costs for the US military in South Korea.

  South Korea has been low-key advancement of missile research and development, but the new version of the "Korea-US Missile Guide" will enhance the ROK’s ballistic missile strike capability, which will have a negative impact on the situation on the peninsula, and may even interfere with the denuclearization process and regional security and stability. South Korea and the United States will also take this opportunity to seek a new balance between South Korea’s "military independence" and the US-South Korea alliance, and on this basis to advance military integration, the security situation in the Asia-Pacific region will therefore face new impacts.

  (Author unit: Academy of Military Sciences War Research Institute)

  Chen Yue