The United States said Thursday an advanced missile defense battery it plans to deploy to South Korea is not aimed at Russia, after Moscow expressed concern that the system would negatively affect the regional situation and provoke an arms race.
The U.S. military plans to bring a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense battery into South Korea to help deter threats from North Korea. The U.S. has conducted a site survey for the system, though no decision has been announced as to where to put it.
Russia's foreign ministry voiced concerns about the plan, saying in a statement earlier Thursday that the plan "cannot but cause concern" and claiming that it will "inevitably have a negative impact on the strategic situation in the region and could provoke an arms race in Northeast Asia."
State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf dismissed such concerns.
"We have very clearly said that we are committed to missile defense, but also to missile defense cooperation with Russia, which would enhance the security of both NATO and of Russia," Harf told reporters at a Foreign Press Center briefing.
"I understand there are strong opinions in Russia about missile defense. We have been very clear that it is not aimed at them and we are looking at a variety of other threats and we will continue talking to them and being transparent with them about why we are doing what we are doing," she said.
Harf said the U.S. remains firm in its position that North Korea should first take concrete steps to demonstrate it is committed to giving up its nuclear program before the long-stalled six-party talks on denuclearization reopen.
"We've said that the North Koreans need to take certain steps before we can get back to the table and will continue to have those conversations," she said in response to a request for comment on Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui's remarks that the U.S. should lower the bar for resuming the six-party talks.
She also said the U.S. sees a "quite a bit of urgency" in the nuclear issue.
"That's why ... there should be a high bar here. It is a very dangerous threat," she said. "We've seen increasingly provocative rhetoric coming out of North Korea, including with recent missile launches that are in violation of UN Security Council resolutions."
Harf stressed that Washington is not ignoring the North Korean nuclear issue, adding that the U.S. has "a whole team very focused on working with our partners and the rest of the six parties as well to see if we can get back to the table."
Asked for comment on the recent agreement on the establishment of a hotline between the South Korean and Chinese defense ministries, the spokeswoman said the concept of hotlines in general is good because it could be helpful in resolving territorial disputes like those surrounding the South and East China seas.
"Anything that can reduce tensions and try to get these disputes resolved peacefully we do think is a good thing. That's just one of those steps that we tend to observe across the board," she said. (Yonhap)