WASHINGTON, April 7 (Yonhap) — The U.S. THAAD missile defense system is a “critical capability” in defending against North Korea’s Nodong and extended-range Scud ballistic missiles, a senior State Department official said Tuesday.
Frank Rose, assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification and compliance, made the remark to reporters, though he said the U.S. has neither made any decision nor begun negotiations with Seoul on whether to deploy a THAAD battery to the South.
“U.S. missile defenses in the Asia-Pacific region are designed to deal with the threat from North Korea, specifically their threat from Nodongs as well as extended-range Scuds,” Rose told reporters after missile defense discussions at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“So the bottom line is: no decision to date. Nor are there any negotiations under way between the U.S. and the ROK on this issue. But what I would say is that in the future, were we to move in this direction, THAAD would be a critical capability to dealing with the threats from North Korea’s Nodong and extended-range Scuds,” he said.
The U.S. wants to deploy a THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missile interceptor battery to South Korea, where some 28,500 American troops are stationed, to better defend against threats from North Korea’s ballistic missiles.
But the issue has become one of the most sensitive for the South because China and Russia see a potential THAAD deployment as a threat to their security interests and have increased pressure on Seoul to reject such a deployment.
Rose emphasized that THAAD is not aimed at China.
“I have made very, very clear that U.S. missile defenses are not directed against China, which are very, very clear in the Ballistic Missile Defense Review … THAAD does not have any capability against China’s strategic deterrent. It is a theater missile defense system,” he said.
Elaine Bunn, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy, also said during the discussions that THAAD is all about coping with threats from North Korea, especially its Scud-C and Nodong missiles.
“It’s North Korea that drives this … If we do have consultations with ROK on this, it will be for the U.S. and ROK to decide. So this is just not about China,” she said.