South Korea Will Not Purchase Advanced Missile Defense Battery from U.S.

kpopluv, March 9, 2015, 11:03 a.m.

South Korea reaffirmed Monday its long-held stance of not purchasing an advanced missile-defense battery from the United States amid growing calls from its ruling party lawmakers to introduce it to better guard against North Korea's missiles.

The U.S. has hinted at the deployment of a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery on Korean soil, home to about 28,500 American troops, to better cope with the growing threats of Pyongyang's nuclear and missile capabilities.

"The defense ministry has no plan to purchase a THAAD system," ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told a regular briefing. "Basically, the system would do good to better defend the country from missiles from North Korea, but we will make a judgment by putting the national interest as our top priority."

 While officials here, including defense minister Han Min-koo, have said its deployment would be helpful for the security of the Korean Peninsula, though the nation is not considering buying the system, the Seoul government has said it will make a decision "after the U.S. sets its position and asks for cooperation or any consultation."

The issue has been the focus of attention here as the move is seen by critics as part of a broader U.S. attempt to get the Asian ally to join its missile-defense (MD) system. But instead of joining the U.S. system, South Korea has been developing its own Korea Air and Missile Defense (KAMD), a low-tier air defense program, and the Kill Chain, which is designed to launch strikes right after signs are detected of imminent nuclear or missile provocations by Pyongyang.

"We will establish an MD system of our own against North Korea's ballistic missiles by developing L-SAM and M-SAM surface-to-air missiles," Kim stressed.  Kim's remarks come at a time when lawmakers from the ruling Saenuri Party have voiced support for the deployment of a THAAD battery in South Korea.

On Sunday, Rep. Won Yoo-chul told reporters that he is "absolutely" supportive of the deployment, as the primary goal of the move by the U.S. is to guarantee the safety of its troops here and their families.  Rep. Na Kyung-won also said during a local TV talk show that she sees a "high necessity" for the deployment, calling for efforts to "persuade China if needed."

"We will set our party's (formal) position on the THAAD introduction after discussions with our members during the general meeting slated for the end of this month, as many of our lawmakers favor the move," said Rep. Yoo Seong-min, the floor leader of the ruling party.  As an integral part of the U.S.-led air defense system for the region, the THAAD is designed to intercept short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles at high altitudes in their terminal phase.

Opponents also say a THAAD deployment in South Korea would inflame tensions with China and Russia as they see the move as a threat to their security interests. The two countries have repeatedly expressed concern and opposition at such a possibility in recent months.

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