SEOUL, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- South Korea will buy mid-range missiles capable of striking Pyongyang and other North Korean cities from U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin, the Defense Ministry said on Saturday. The missiles have a range of 300 kilometers, or 188 miles.
"The Defense Ministry signed a 400 billion won ($307 million) contract with Lockheed Martin to purchase 111 tactical ballistic missiles, dubbed Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) Block 1A, and 29 multiple launching pads over the next two years," a ministry spokesman said.
This marks the first time that South Korea will deploy the medium-range missiles. "The 300-km missiles reach all parts of North Korea," he said.
Under a 1979 accord with Washington, South Korea had been restricted from developing a missile with a range of more than 112 miles. But last year Washington raised the limit to 188 miles after South Korea complained that its missiles fall far short of reaching most of North Korea.
South Korea has requested 110 ATACMS Block 1A missiles since December 1999, and test-fired last November a missile with a 62-mile range that landed in the Yellow Sea between South Korea and China.
The ATACMS is designed to attack critical high "pay-off" targets of rear echelon forces, including airfields, surface-to-air missile sites, air defense systems and mobile missile launchers, military experts said.
North Korea in 1998 fired a ballistic missile that flew over Japan. The United States has cited Pyongyang as part of its justification for developing a U.S. national missile defense shield.
North and South Korea remain technically at war since their 1950-53 conflict ended without a peace treaty. Their border is the world's most heavily armed, with nearly 2 million troops deployed on both sides.
South Korea also plans to purchase 40 jet fighters and helicopters, missiles and surveillance systems. Boeing's F-15K is competing the Rafale fighter of France's Dassault Aviation, Russia's Sukhoi and Eurofighter of a European aerospace consortium for the $3.2 billion project.