South Korea and the United States have no plan to discuss the highly contentious issue of whether to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) battery on Korean soil during upcoming defense ministers’ talks, the Seoul government said Monday.
The possibility of the U.S. deploying a THAAD battery in South Korea has been the focus of attention as it is seen as part of a broader U.S. attempt to get the Asian ally to join its missile defense (MD) system.
There are concerns the deployment of THAAD, an integral part of the U.S. MD system, would spark tensions with China and Russia who see it as a threat to their security interests.
“As far as I know, the issue will not be addressed during the Security Consultative Meeting (SCM),” defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told a regular briefing. The security talks involving the defense ministers from the two nations begin next week in Washington.
He also reiterated that the U.S. “has not discussed the matter with our side,” and he has not “ever heard from the U.S. about whether it has made any decision regarding the issue.”
His comments came after Seoul’s ambassador to Washington, Ahn Ho-young, told a parliamentary audit of the embassy last week that “there were consultations on the weapons system itself,” though no talks were held about its deployment to the Korean Peninsula.
Refusing to join the U.S. air defense, also participated in by Japan, South Korea has been working on developing its own Korean Air and Missile Defense system, but the Seoul government has stated that it does not oppose Washington’s possible plan to bring THAAD here in order to protect its troops.
About 28,500 U.S. troops are currently stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.
In regards to questions raised by opposition lawmakers on U.S. forces having carried out simulations involving the THAAD, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Choi Yun-hee confirmed such trials were carried out in the past.