United States Hopes to Deploy Missile Defense in South Korea

D-Bo , Feb. 27, 2015, 9:28 a.m.

An advanced missile defense battery the United States hopes to deploy to South Korea is a "purely defensive" system designed only to counter ballistic missile threats from North Korea, a senior U.S. official has said.

Frank Rose, assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance, also emphasized during a speech in Tokyo this week that the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery does not affect stability with China and Russia.

"Let me be clear, this system is a purely defensive system to defend against short- and medium-range regional ballistic missiles from North Korea. It does not and cannot impact broader strategic stability with Russia and China," Rose said during a American Center speech, according to the department.

"Such a system would provide additional defensive capabilities to support our forces on the peninsula. That said, there are no negotiations ongoing between the U.S. and the Republic of Korea to deploy THAAD to the Republic of Korea," he said.

The possibility of the U.S. deploying a THAAD battery to South Korea has been the focus of attention in Seoul because such a deployment is seen by critics as part of a broader U.S. attempt to get the Asian ally to join its missile defense system.

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.

Rose praised Japan for cooperating closely with the U.S. on missile defense, including the December announcement of the deployment of a second AN/TPY-2 missile defense radar to Japan and the inclusion of missile defense in the interim report on the revision of the defense guidelines.

"These regional missile defenses help to reassure Japan and deter North Korea from seeking to coerce or attack its neighbors," he said. "Missile defenses contribute to regional stability because the protection that defenses offer can reduce pressures for a preemptive strike, or a large retaliation to a provocation that can escalate a crisis."

The U.S. is continuing to encourage its allies not only to contribute to their own defense but also to provide capabilities in a multilateral context that can enhance their own security and contribute to stability in the Asia-Pacific region, he said.

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