The United States has no objection to South Korea's plan to develop its own missile defense system but hopes that it would be interoperable with the existing U.S. system, a U.S. official said Thursday.
"We want the Korean Air Missile and Defense (KAMD) to be independent and strong," U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O.
Work told a news conference at the Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek before leaving South Korea.
"What we hope is to have an extremely interoperable system between the United States' theater missile defense and the KAMD ...
We really want interoperability," he said, brushing aside persisting speculations that Washington is trying to press Seoul to join its own shield.
Noting that there "are very low-cost, high-impact ways to link these systems together," Work stressed that the U.S. does not "want to take over the KAMD."
There have been signs that the U.S. is trying to have South Korea join its air defense, an option rebuffed by the Asian country, which has been working to develop its own defense system.
The U.S.-led MD, joined by Japan, is widely seen as aimed at countering the rising influence of China in the region.
Work, however, did not elaborate on how the allies can guarantee such interoperability, while the U.S. has said it is mulling to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery on the Korean Peninsula, an integral part of the U.S. MD system.
Pointing out that North Korea is "putting a lot of emphasis on missiles" which is "an extremely difficult problem," however, he reiterated that Pyongyang's constant military provocations are the reason why the theater missile defense system is "critical for the
North Korea has ratcheted up tensions on the Korean Peninsula in recent months by firing off short-range rockets and missiles in succession and threatening to carry out another nuclear test.
Asked about Washington's rivalry with China, Work said the United States "welcomes China's rise" and nothing will "work against the (U.S.'s) peaceful and prosperous relationship with China."
While stressing that the alliance between Seoul and Washington is "the linchpin of security in Northeast Asia," Work said "rebalance (to Asia) is real" and his country will further boost coordination with Asian partners including Japan.
From South Korea, Work flew to Tokyo where North Korea is expected to be a major topic in talks with Japanese officials. It was his first Asia trip since taking office earlier this year.
While in Seoul, Work met with top security-related government officials, including national security adviser Kim Kwan-jin and Defense Minister Han Min-koo. (Yonhap)