The U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) said Sunday that South Korea's improved missile range will bolster its "defensive capability" to counter North Korea's ballistic missile threat.
It emphasized the communist nation poses the most urgent threat to its area of jurisdiction -- the Pacific Ocean.
"This improved range distance will provide a defensive capability that will allow the ROK and allies to defend against the DPRK ballistic missile threat," the Hawaii-based command said in response to an inquiry by Yonhap News Agency. The DPRK stands for North Korea's formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
After years of negotiations, the U.S. recently agreed to allow South Korea to develop ballistic missiles with a range of up to 800 kilometers (500 miles), nearly triple the previous range of 300km.
Seoul has been subject to such a bilateral missile guideline for decades in exchange for access to Washington's missile technology.
The PACOM commands more than 300,000 military personnel from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, and its role has become more vital in the U.S. defense strategy, which is rebalancing toward Asia.
It vowed to maintain the "same level of commitment" in Northeast Asia as the U.S. regards North Korea's denuclearization, provocations and proliferation to be the "most urgent threat in the region."
PACOM expressed confidence that South Korea and the U.S. will keep their joint defense posture intact even after the transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) in 2015.
The Combined Forces Command, which has served as a control tower of the allies' military partnerships, will be dismantled when Seoul regains OPCON for its troops from Washington to Seoul.
"ROK (South Korean) forces are a capable fighting force," PACOM said. "The resilience of our alliance has been publicly reaffirmed." (Yonhap News)