Blue House insists there’s no pressure on Thaad

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Blue House insists there’s no pressure on Thaad

The presidential office insisted Wednesday that the United States wasn’t pressuring Korea to deploy an advanced missile defense system, amidst a growing push from the ruling party to accept the deployment.

“I understand many are wondering about the Thaad,” Min Kyung-wook, spokesman of the Blue House, said, using the acronym for the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system. “The government’s position can be described as ‘three nos.’ There was no request, no consultation and no decision.”

The government’s position is that technically, the United States hasn’t even asked Korea to deploy its missile shield and there have been no negotiations on the issue either.

The public finds that hard to believe after Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the commander of U.S. Forces Korea, said last year that he had proposed to Washington that the deployment of Thaad in Korea was necessary.

Thaad puts South Korea in a dilemma because both China and Russia are against its use. They worry that its radar system, which can cover more than 1,000 kilometers (621 miles), could be used as a method of surveillance against them.

The Blue House has remained tight-lipped about the controversy and Wednesday’s statement by its spokesman appeared to be intended to keep the controversy from growing. Defense Minister Han Min-koo earlier said the Park Geun-hye administration is deliberately maintaining “strategic ambiguity” on the issue because of its sensitivity.

While the Park administration has tried to avoid discussing Thaad, the conservative ruling Saenuri Party increasingly promotes its deployment in Korea to protect against North Korean missiles.

Earlier this week, Rep. Yoo Seong-min, floor leader of the ruling party, said he will collect Saenuri lawmakers’ opinions on the matter because it is an important national security issue and a defense budget matter. Yoo has publicly expressed his support for the Thaad deployment over the past months.

Other Saenuri leaders including Reps. Won Yoo-chul, senior policy maker of the Saenuri Party, and Na Kyung-won, chairwoman of the foreign and unification affairs committee of the National Assembly, also expressed their support.

The Blue House’s statement on the Thaad issue also appeared to be a rejection of media reports on China’s campaign to block the Thaad deployment.

The Washington Free Beacon reported Monday that China has promised trade and business incentives to South Korea in exchange for Seoul’s rejection of the U.S. request to deploy a Thaad battery. Quoting current and former U.S. officials, the report said the appeal was made directly by Chinese President Xi Jinping to President Park.

The JoongAng Ilbo also reported last month that Xi, during a summit with Park in Seoul in July, suggested she turn down any U.S. request to deploy the antiballistic missile system here by using a national sovereignty excuse.

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