The U.S. military has shared its Patriot operations manual with South Korea as part of a broader effort to foster bilateral missile defense interoperability.
The ceremonial presentation of a U.S. doctrine that was authorized expressly for use by South Korea's Patriot force took place on Thursday at Osan Air Base in South Korea, according to a Monday U.S. Pacific Command press release. The manual contains specifications for the training and use of the Patriot air and missile defense system.
Though a seemingly small action between two longtime military allies, the U.S. military said the event was significant because it could open the way to much deeper missile defense cooperation.
"This is the first step in our ongoing efforts to increase information sharing with our [Republic of Korea] air and missile defense allies," 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade commander Col. Thomas Nguyen said in a provided statement. "In the event of hostilities, the U.S. and R.O.K. Patriot formations will fight the air and missile threat as a combined action."
South Korea next year intends to upgrade its stockpile of 48 Patriot Advanced Capability 2 units and to purchase more-capable PAC-3 systems from the United States.
Seoul for years has resisted U.S. entreaties to join a regional antimissile framework. However, Washington has continued to push the issue, seeing the establishment of an East Asia ballistic missile shield as critical to responding to the growing threat of North Korea's nuclear missile programs.
"We have a saying in Korea. When building a house, you must place a cornerstone first," South Korean Air Force Air Defense Missile Command head Maj. Gen. Yun Soo-lee said in provided comments. "This is the cornerstone and it is dependent upon us to reinforce this building through emphasis on implementing this shared doctrine."
Meanwhile, the U.S. commander of military forces based in South Korea said he has sought the deployment of a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system to the South, but that formal discussions on the matter had not yet begun with Seoul, Reuters reported.
The South Korean defense ministry said it would consider the matter "when a formal request for cooperation comes."