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U.S. skeptical of Seoul's longer-range missile ambition: ex-official

All Headlines 05:08 May 16, 2012

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, May 15 (Yonhap) -- The United States is skeptical of South Korea's push to extend its ballistic missile range, according to a former top Pentagon official.

Michele Flournoy, who served as under secretary of defense for policy until February, emphasized that countering North Korea's missile threats is a matter to be handled from the perspective of the alliance.

"We should approach that as a problem for the alliance. We should look at not only what capabilities does South Korea need but also what capabilities do we as an alliance need," she told Yonhap News Agency after a forum Tuesday on U.S. defense strategy at the American Enterprise Institute.

Flournoy, who while in office took part in a sensitive discussion with Seoul on that matter, said South Korea can explore ways to maximize the effect of the alliance before using its resources to build its own extended-range missile system.

"We have such a close alliance, and political commitment is so rock-solid," she said. "I think that there are better ways to solve the problem."

South Korea is prohibited from developing ballistic missiles with a range of more than 300 kilometers (186 miles) under a 2001 deal with the U.S.

Seoul has been seeking to develop longer-range missiles in order to cover all of North Korea, which is armed with missiles of various ranges.

President Lee Myung-bak has said that South Korea needs to advance its ballistic missile capability.

On the Pentagon's budget cuts and pivot towards Asia, Flournoy said there will be no major change in its policy on the Korean Peninsula.

"This is adding an additional dimension which now make us more active in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean," she said.

She added the alliance with South Korea will remain a cornerstone of U.S. defense strategy.

Flournoy, now a member of the board of directors of the Center for a New American Security, was the highest-ranking female official at the Pentagon.

Some say she may become the secretary of defense if President Barack Obama is re-elected.

She refused to comment on that possibility.



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