YonHap News Agency:
South Korea has the undoubtedly clear intention to deploy the U.S. advanced air defense shield because such a move can better protect the country from North Korea’s ever-growing nuclear and missile threats, Seoul’s defense minister said Saturday.
“(South Korea) undoubtedly has the intention to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD),” Minister Han Min-koo said in response to a number of experts’ questions on the deployment issue during the Asia Security Summit held in Singapore.
“The missile interception capability that the South Korean military and the United States Forces Korea currently have is for low-altitude defense in the terminal stage (of an incoming missile), therefore the deployment of THAAD which could defend a broader region, is more valuable militarily,” the defense chief said.
The idea of the THAAD deployment originated in South Korea’s efforts to defend against the growingly sophisticated and expanded nuclear and missile capabilities of North Korea, Han said, apparently mindful of China’s relentless opposition to a THAAD deployment on its doorstep.
“South Korea thoroughly considers it a matter of national security and interests,” he said.
South Korea and the U.S. announced the launch of their official talks to discuss the THAAD deployment on Feb. 7, hours after North Korea launched a long-range rocket, which the allies denounced as a pretext to test long-range ballistic missile technology.
Han said the allies’ joint working group is discussing when and where to deploy the missile system as well as cost issues. He pointed out that the two governments will make a final decision after the working group submits the results of their review.
Asked whether South Korea has any plans to join the U.S.’ naval patrol activities in the South China Sea, the minister said South Korea’s Navy has no such plans because their prime mission is countering the threat coming from North Korea.