The United States is considering permanently stationing a THAAD missile defense unit in South Korea to help defend against North Korean threats, even though no final decision has been made, a senior U.S. official said Tuesday.
Frank Rose, assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification and compliance, made the remark during a security seminar, stressing THAAD is a purely defense system and poses no threat to other countries in the region.
"Although we're considering the permanent stationing of a THAAD unit on the Korean Peninsula, we have not made a final decision and we've had no formal consultations with the Republic of Korea on a potential THAAD deployment," Rose said during the seminar hosted by the Institute for Corean-American Studies at the Rayburn House Office Building.
"However, let me be clear on a couple of points. THAAD is a purely defensive system that would improve our ability to intercept short- and medium-range missiles from North Korea. It does not and cannot impact broader strategic stability with Russia or China," he said.
The U.S. wants to deploy a THAAD missile interceptor battery to South Korea, where some 28,500 American troops are stationed, to better defend against ever-growing threats from North Korea's ballistic missile and nuclear programs.
But the issue has become one of the most sensitive for the South because China and Russia see a potential THAAD deployment as a threat to their security interests and have increased pressure on Seoul to reject such a deployment.
Seoul and Washington have maintained that there have been no formal consultations or decision on the issue between the two countries. But the issue came to the fore again this week as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Seoul that a provocative North Korea is "why we are talking about THAAD."
Rose dismissed Chinese concerns that THAAD would pose a threat to its security interests in the region.
"I think part of what China is trying to do is create a wedge in the U.S. alliance system in the region," Rose said.
The official also said the THAAD missile defense system has no capability to intercept long-range Chinese missiles. He also dismissed Chinese claims that the radar that comes with THAAD could be used to spy on China, saying the U.S. already has such radars in the region.
Rose also praised some senior South Korean officials for rejecting Chinese attempts to affect the issue.
"I've been very, very pleased with some of the statements that have come out of senior officials in the Republic of Korea, saying even though no decisions have been made, the U.S. has not made a request and no formal consultations have occurred today, let us be clear this is about defense and security of the Republic of Korea and we will make our decisions on our own without any input from you," he said. (Yonhap)