Korea can now develop solid-propellant boosters for its space rockets after striking a deal on new missile guidelines with the United States, according to Cheong Wa Dae, Tuesday.
Kim Hyun-chong, the second deputy director of the National Security Office (NSO), said Seoul and Washington agreed to lift a decades-long restriction on the former's use of solid fuels for its space launch vehicles. The new guidelines took effect immediately.
"The new guidelines enable Korean companies, research institutes and technically even individuals to develop, produce and possess space rockets that use not only liquid fuel but also solid and hybrid ones without restrictions," Kim said, adding that it would help advance the Korean military's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.
He added said the accord enables Korea to launch low-earth orbit military spy satellites, flying at the altitude of 500 to 2,000 kilometers, anytime and anywhere, which would place the entire Korean Peninsula under around-the-clock surveillance by the military.
Korea first signed an agreement on missile guidelines with the U.S. in 1979 and they were last revised in 2017 between President Moon Jae-in and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump.
This revision removed the 500 kilogram payload weight restriction on warheads carried by Korea's ballistic missiles, although a range limit of 800 kilometers remained the same. However, Kim hinted that the government may discuss removing the range limit as well.
"The range limit remains in place, but this can be resolved in due time if it is necessary for military purposes," he said.
President Moon instructed the NSO last October to hold new talks with the U.S. on the guidelines, and Kim has since led these negotiations.