Korea and U.S. stances on Thaad still don’t jibe

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Korea and U.S. stances on Thaad still don’t jibe

The United States is talking with Korea on the possible deployment of an antiballistic missile defense system to counter North Korean threats, a top U.S. defense policymaker said.

At a forum organized by the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work said Tuesday that the United States is considering deploying a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery, better known as Thaad, to Korea.

“We are considering very carefully whether or not to put a Thaad in South Korea,” he said. “We’re doing site surveys. We’re working with the government of South Korea now to determine if that is the right thing to do.”

The United States has already sent one Thaad battery to Guam in response to North Korean provocations, he added.

The defense secretary’s remarks were the latest in a series of contradicting accounts about the possible deployment of the missile defense battery to Korea. While U.S. officials including Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of the U.S. Forces Korea, said Washington has made a proposal to Korea on the deployment, Seoul officials consistently deny that such a discussion is talking place.

After meetings with top U.S. security officials in Washington, Blue House national security advisor Kim Kwan-jin told Korean correspondents on Sept. 14 that no discussion on the Thaad deployment took place between Korea and the United States.

The Ministry of National Defense also denied Secretary Work’s remarks yesterday that the two governments are working on the issue.

The deployment of the Thaad battery to Korea has been a conflictive issue because China and Russia have reacted sensitively toward the anti-missile system, designed to shoot down missiles using a hit-to-kill approach and equipped with a radar system that can cover more than a 1,000-kilometer (621 mile) range.

“We’ve emphasized to both China and to Russia that these are not strategic antiballistic missiles, that they essentially allow - I mean, they are essentially designed to address regional threats against both our allies,” Work said. “So we continue to work with the Russians and the Chinese to allay any concerns that they have, but they both have indicated concerns.”

Critics in Seoul have also shown concerns that the possible Thaad deployment could lead to U.S. pressures on Seoul to purchase the expensive system.

BY SER MYO-JA [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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