Thaad calls for prudence

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Thaad calls for prudence

Deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) missile system in South Korea to fend off incoming North Korean missiles is rapidly gaining momentum since the North’s fourth nuclear test on January 6. Some foreign press are reporting it as if it’s already a fait accompli.

The transportable defensive weapon system is, of course, worth consideration given its potential capability to defend us from North Korean missile attacks. But it is topsy-turvy if the government hurriedly makes a decision to deploy the system without taking into account the huge expenditures involved, its effectiveness and possible options.

The first questions are how much it will cost and who will pay for the deployment. To protect the entire South Korean territory, we need 2 to 3 Thaad artillery batteries which call for a budget between 4 trillion won ($3.32 billion) and 6 trillion won. Considering that the U.S. Forces Korea were the first who wanted to deploy the defense system in Korea, the United States could fund its own. Yet the cost for the remaining Thaad systems will have to be borne by our government. Our military must find out if the system is really worth the gargantuan investment in the face of the alarming slowdown of our economy.

Second, the government must answer if the system can really safeguard us from incoming North Korean missiles. Currently, North Korea is working hard to develop submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLMB) on top of its ground-based nuclear weapons. The Thaad system cannot intercept a missile shot from under the sea. It could be useless even after spending an astronomical amount of money in deployment. That’s why military experts contend it would be more effective to develop a nuclear-powered submarine than deploy Thaad.

We also have been building the Korean Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) to cope with increasing nuclear threats from the North. The KAMD project includes the development of L-SAM ground-to-air missiles, which costs 2 trillion won. The Thaad system can overlap with L-SAM due to the low altitude required by Thaad to intercept missiles in small land areas like the peninsula. If the government pushes ahead with it irrespective of these aspects, it cannot avoid public criticism.

If the government reaches a conclusion in favor of Thaad after thorough reviews, we would welcome it. Despite a need for Thaad for our security, it’s not an issue that calls for an urgent decision. The government must listen to the public and experts and approach the subject in a prudent manner because it is directly linked to our survival.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 1, Page 30

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