Minister hints at reaction to ThaadMinister of Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se on Sunday outlined a probable scenario should the United States officially request the deployment of its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system on the Korean Peninsula, which would involve review by Seoul’s Defense Ministry and National Security Council.
In a nationally televised interview with KBS on Sunday, Yun said the process would involve “technical review by the Ministry of National Defense, followed by a cumulative decision that is centered around the National Security Council.”
The Korean government has so far kept mum on the issue, emphasizing “three no’s” in its consideration: No request from the United States, no consultation with the United States and no decision. This marks the first time a high-ranking Korean official has indicated how Seoul may respond should Washington request Thaad be placed on the peninsula.
“When the discussion [on Thaad’s deployment] becomes official, we will offer an explanation to China, or Russia, or any other country that may have misunderstandings,” Yun continued.
The Thaad system is intended to defend South Korea from possible nuclear and missile threats by North Korea and deter them. It is designed to shoot down missiles closer to their point of origin than South Korea’s current missile defense.
The placement of a Thaad battery in Korea has been controversial as it comes with a radar system that can reach more than 1,000 kilometers (621 miles).
Washington and Seoul claim there have been no official talks on the deployment of an anti-missile defense battery in Korea. On Friday, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the American Joint Chiefs of Staff, held talks with his Korean counterpart, Adm. Choi Yoon-hee, but avoided discussions on Thaad.
When asked if Korea isn’t being overly cautious in trying not to offend the United States and China over the Thaad issue, the minister replied, “Speaking as a member of the diplomatic and security team, this issue is fundamentally not something in which we need to be paying attention to the reaction [of another party]. We have no such reason to be doing so, and that is not the case.”
“The most pressing problem is how we can cope with North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat,” Yun continued. “Taking into account such security factors, our government has to respond bearing in mind our overall national interest, and in this process we have to be centered and take the lead in making a decision.”
China and Russia have vocally opposed the deployment of the advanced missile defense system in Korea, fearing it may lead to instability in the region. Beijing has said it worries that its radar system could be used as a method of surveillance against it.
Yun added, “At this stage, we can’t determine China’s [expression of concern over the Thaad issue] as being very high or low, but rather, it’s true that China has spoken of the issue with sensitivity on numerous occasions.”
Last week, Korea decided to join the Beijing-backed Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, another issue that observers see as a move that could appease China should Seoul accept the U.S.-led Thaad system.
BY YOO JEE-HYE, SARAH KIM [email@example.com]