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US recognizes need to increase Korea's ballistic missile capability: vice FM

WASHINGTON -- The United States recognizes the need to "swiftly and smoothly" increase South Korea's ballistic missile capability in the face of North Korea's growing threats, Seoul's No. 2 diplomat said Monday.

Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam made the remark after holding talks with US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan on the bilateral relationship and North Korea's nuclear program.

The two sides especially held "in-depth" talks about Seoul's request to revise a bilateral missile guideline, Lim said. South Korea has asked the US to allow it to increase the payload on South Korean ballistic missiles to 1 ton from the current 500 kilograms.

South Korea`s Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam (Yonhap)
South Korea`s Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam (Yonhap)

"I was able to confirm that the US holds positive views (of the proposed revision)," he told reporters. "I understood that the US also recognizes the need to swiftly and smoothly make (the revision)."

The issue is expected to be a topic of discussion during the upcoming Wednesday meeting between South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo and US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at the Pentagon.

The diplomats also discussed the issue of holding regular strategic consultations on the US extended deterrence over South Korea and agreed on the need to maintain close cooperation over North Korea's nuclear program, Lim said.

Tensions have risen sharply since North Korea tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July.

Pyongyang ratcheted up tensions again Tuesday (North Korean time) by launching a missile over Japan. On Saturday, it fired three short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea. (Yonhap)