U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said Saturday the possible deployment of the U.S. advanced missile defense system on Korean soil should be considered as threats by North Korea have grown.
"The THAAD system is a very effective and excellent deterrent. I think it is something that has to be considered in light of recent information about the advanced step North Korea has made," McCain said in a press conference in Singapore on the sidelines of the Asia Security Summit, also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue.
Washington has expressed its willingness to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery on the Korean Peninsula to better protect South Korea and the some 28,000 U.S. troops stationed in the country from North Korea's threats.
As an integral part of the U.S.-led missile defense system, it is designed to shoot down short, medium and intermediate ballistic missiles at a higher altitude in their terminal phase using a hit-to-kill method.
McCain said his judgment is based upon the undisputed assessment that Pyongyang has made "significant advances in their capabilities as far as both the development of weapons themselves and the delivery system."
The communist North has ratcheted up tensions on the peninsula particularly in recent months. Earlier this month, Pyongyang announced that it had successfully fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile, while claiming that it has already made nuclear warheads small enough to fit on a missile.
The senator, also the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, however, said a series of processes are still needed before any decision on the issue can be made.
"I think we should have congressional hearings, and I think we should consult with the president and the secretary of defense before we make that decision," he added.
Whether the U.S. should deploy the system on the peninsula is a highly sensitive military and diplomatic issue amid concerns that it would antagonize China and Russia.
Seoul and Washington have said no official consultations or decisions have taken place on the matter, though Seoul has made it clear that it has no plan to purchase the system. (Yonhap)