The commander of the U.S. Army Pacific visited South Korea earlier this week, a trip that included a visit to the U.S. Army unit set to operate the THAAD missile defense system to be deployed by the Asian ally, a military official said Saturday.
Gen. Robert Brown's two-day trip to South Korea which started on Tuesday was part of his swing through the region that also included a stop in Japan, according to a military official who asked not to be named. It was Brown's first trip to South Korea since taking office as the commander in April.
During the trip, Brown is known to have visited the Eighth Army's 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade that is expected to operate the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) unit to be deployed in the South's southeastern county of Seongju.
Still, the military official said the visit does not have direct relation to the deployment.
In early July, South Korea and the United States jointly announced a decision to put a THAAD battery in the South to cope with North Korean missile threats. The decision marked an official end to years of soul-searching by Seoul over how to deal with the sensitive issue amid Chinese claims the system can be used against it.
The U.S. had long desired to deploy THAAD in the South, but Seoul had wavered over whether to accept the deployment because of Chinese objections. The North's fourth nuclear test in January and the long-range rocket launch the following month provided a strong impetus for the U.S. and South Korea to deploy the system.
Since the announcement, a number of U.S. military officials have visited South Korea, including U.S. Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning.