The US eased restrictions on South Korea’s ballistic missiles under a new agreement, a move to shore up the country’s inferior military capability vis-a-vis it’s estranged neighbor in the North.

The new security agreement announced Sunday, reports AP, increased the maximum range of South Korean missiles to 800km from the 300km set in a previous accord in 2001. The maximum allowed payload was also increased from 500kg to 2,500kg. This means that long-range missiles from the South facing North Korea will be able to attack a wider range of targets, including key military installations. The amendment also enables Seoul to hit Russia, China and Japan.

South Korea has been seeking the US’ approval to strengthen the country’s missile capabilities “to contain North Korea’s armed provocation,” senior presidential official Chun Yung-woo told AP. “North Korea has continued to develop nuclear missile capacity, so we wanted to secure an effective means to protect our people’s lives and security,” a spokeswoman for President Lee Myung-bak said.

The measure will likely provoke the nuclear-armed North Korea, already irked by a “hostile” US policy that Pyongyang claims would ignite a nuclear war in the Korean peninsula. North Korea’s missiles can hit South Korea, Japan and the US territory Guam, according to Seoul’s Defense Ministry.