SEOUL • South Korea plans to accelerate its space development programme with a boost in United States cooperation that may help the Biden administration check China’s growing global clout.
“We will expand our space cooperation with the international community, including the US,” South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in a speech yesterday, adding that Seoul will speed up its space launch vehicle development programme.
Mr Moon’s speech comes two weeks after he met US President Joe Biden at the White House as part of Washington’s push to build a united front with allies against security threats posed by the likes of China and North Korea.
The US and South Korea agreed to terminate bilateral missile guidelines that have long restricted Seoul’s development of missiles to under the range of 800km. The end of the guideline puts major Chinese cities within South Korea’s missile range and increases Seoul’s ability to strike North Korea.
“Terminating the missile guideline not only means we have secured our ‘missile sovereignty’, but also marks the beginning of our journey to space,” Mr Moon said.
Based on a strong South Korea-US alliance, Seoul will also “respond more proactively to the changing security environment”, he said.
After the summit in Washington, South Korea joined Nasa’s moon-exploration coalition, becoming the 10th signatory nation to the Artemis Accord, a pact that governs behaviour norms of those taking part in the lunar exploration programme.
It will spend 615 billion won (S$733 million) this year on space development aimed at boosting its capacity to produce satellites, rockets and other key equipment, according to the Ministry of Science and ICT in February.
Mr Moon also suggested that South Korea could play a bigger role on the international stage. He said South Korea’s alliance with the US is to protect democratic values and human rights, adding Seoul wants to develop it into a more “comprehensive alliance”.
He also condemned violence in Myanmar that has killed hundreds since February’s coup, saying he believes a “Myanmar Spring will surely come”. Mr Moon in March called for the immediate release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other political detainees there.