South Korea on Thursday rebutted a news report that it was considering hosting a U.S. missile defense system, the Xinhua News Agency reports.
Defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters there were no plans to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery in South Korea, and that the ministry was unaware of any U.S. plans to request permission to do so.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that the U.S. military had already carried out a site study of potential areas in South Korea where the THAAD battery could be deployed. The antimissile technology is intended to counter short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles after they have re-entered Earth's atmosphere.
In 2013, Seoul was reported to have sought information from the Pentagon about acquiring a THAAD system but ultimately decided to upgrade and expand its Patriot missile defense capacity. Were the United States to field one of the $950 million THAAD batteries in South Korea, it could induce Seoul to agree to deepen its antimissile cooperation with Washington and Tokyo, according to the Journal.
Despite repeated entreaties by the Obama administration to join a U.S.-led regional missile shield, Seoul has refused out of a desire to avoid antagonizing China and historic mistrust of Japan. South Korea says its missile defenses are aimed at fending off a tactical missile strike from North Korea. The United States argues that having an integrated U.S.-South Korea-Japan system would improve response times in the event of a missile attack by Pyongyang.
In response to North Korean nuclear saber-rattling in spring 2013, the United States deployed a THAAD battery to Guam, where it remains today. The Pentagon is also planning to deploy a second AN/TPY-2 radar to Japan by the end of 2014, said Adm. James Winnefeld, the vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a Wednesday conference in Washington.
Discussing recent U.S. moves to bolster East Asia's missile defense, Winnefeld said that "with the unpredictability of the North Korean regime, we may find ourselves doing more of this sort of thing in the future elsewhere in the region," Defense News reported.
China's foreign ministry on Wednesday criticized the reported plan to field a THAAD system in South Korea, warning it would "not help maintain stability and strategic balance in this region", the Yonhap News Agency reported.