The Korea Herald:
North Korea’s latest provocation is expected to serve as a catalyst to strengthen the bilateral cooperation between the U.S. and Japan, and bring in South Korea in Washington’s efforts to build a holistic integrated air and missile defense program, or IAMD.
Japan has already been a stalwart supporter of the IAMD, while South Korea has rejected the idea of the missile defense integration in consideration of its strategic partnership with China, its largest trading partner.
America’s missile defense program has been a centerpiece of its military project to offset China’s increasing “anti-access/area-denial” capabilities to keep any potential hostile forces from approaching its territory during wartime or in a crisis situation.
Last March debate erupted when U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey sought cooperation from South Korea in building the IAMD to be joined by Japan during his visit to Seoul.
In his meeting with Defense Minister Han Min-koo, the top U.S. military officer brought attention to the issue by noting he had “productive” conversations with top South Korean military officers on the progress in building the system.
Analysts said the missile defense issue could escalate the Sino-U.S. rivalry, which would, after all, hurt Seoul’s ongoing efforts to keep friendly ties with Beijing.
Observers also raised the possibility that the U.S. may also move to persuade the South to install an advanced missile defense asset, called the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, on the peninsula on the grounds that the asset is necessary to fend off Pyongyang’s missile attacks.
South Korea still remains indecisive on the issue of allowing the U.S. to deploy a THAAD battery on its soil. China has opposed the THAAD deployment, which it suspects is aimed at undermining its strategic missile capability, in addition to deterring threats from North Korea.