The U.S plans to deploy Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system to South Korea despite concerns from China and Russia over the move, according to local media reports.
The THAAD deployment plan is a sensitive issue because it is seen as U.S. pressure on Seoul to buy a the system. It could also arouse tensions with China and Russia as they see the U.S. move as a threat to their interests.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work was quoted by Yonhap News Agency as saying on Wednesday that "We are working with the government of South Korea now to determine if that (the deployment) is the right thing to do."
Work said the United States is considering sending THAAD missile battery to South Korea, noting his country has already moved one THAAD battery to Guam "in response to provocations" from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
The South Korean Defense Ministry has denied a request being made by U.S in regard to deployment of THAAD and neither the two countries have had any discussions on the issue.
"We are considering very carefully whether or not to put a THAAD in South Korea. We're doing site surveys. We're working with the government of South Korea now to determine if that is the right thing to do," said Work.
"These batteries are strategic assets. Moving them is a very, very important national-level decision," he said.
Critics in South Korea have also claimed the planned deployment is part of a broader U.S. attempt to get the Asian ally to join its missile defense system. Seoul has said it won't join the U.S. system, but will instead develop its own, the report stated.
The THAAD is an advanced missile-defense system, with one battery composed of six mobile launchers and 48 missiles striking targets at an altitude of 40-150 km. A battery is valued at about 2 billion U.S. dollars.