SEOUL,The United States and South Korea showed different responses to the alleged U.S. plan to deploy its advanced missile-defense battery to the Korean Peninsula as a senior U.S. defense official confirmed the two allies are in discussions on the deployment.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work was quoted by Yonhap News Agency as saying on Wednesday that “We are working with the government of South Korea now to determine if that (the deployment) is the right thing to do.”
Work said the United States is considering sending a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile battery to South Korea, noting his country has already moved one THAAD battery to Guam “in response to provocations” from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
His remark contrasted with what the South Korean Defense Ministry said that the United States neither has requested the THAAD deployment nor have the two countries held any discussions on the issue.
Local newspaper Donga Ilbo reported on Sept. 5 that talks about bringing a THAAD battery into South Korea “are at the final stage, ” and the result could be officially announced as early as in October when defense chiefs of the two countries hold their annual Security Consultative Meeting in Washington.
“We are considering very carefully whether or not to put a THAAD in South Korea. We’re doing site surveys,” said Work.
Donga Ilbo reported that a THAAD missile battery was highly likely to be deployed to a U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) base in Pyeongtaek, some 70 km south of Seoul.
The United States reportedly has been under internal review on whether to deploy the THAAD in South Korea since former USFK commander James Thurman proposed it in 2011. Current USFK commander Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti said in early June that he called for Washington to bring the THAAD into the peninsula.
Former South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin, who now serves as top national security adviser to President Park Geun-hye, told lawmakers in mid-June that it would be “no matter” if the United States forces deploy the THAAD.
The THAAD is an advanced missile-defense system, with one battery composed of six mobile launchers and 48 missiles striking targets at an altitude of 40-150 km. A battery is valued at about 2 trillion won (some 2 billion U.S. dollars).
The United States has claimed that the South Korean missile defense is not enough to defend the DPRK’s missile threats as the PAC-2 interceptors, held by the South Korean military, can strike targets at an altitude of around 20 km. The PAC-3, held by the USFK, can strike targets at an altitude of less than 40 km.
The Korea Air and Missile Defense, South Korea’s own missile defense system which would be established by 2020, aims at intercepting missiles at an altitude of 20-40 km.
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