South Korean official has pushed for the deployment of an advanced US missile system, as a defense against North’s missile and nuclear programs.
Kim Moo-sung, chairman of the ruling Saenuri Party was quoted as saying by Yonhap: “It's high time for South Korea to have a forward-looking and aggressive stance on the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery”.
"We should not passively react to North Korea's nuclear issue," Kim said in a meeting with party officials today, noting South Koreans' lives are at stake because of North Korea's nuclear program.
Defense Minister Han Min-koo said last month that South Korea needs to consider deploying the THAAD system from the perspective of national defense.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Pacific commander said that the decision on THAAD deployment in South will be "an alliance decision" that should be taken jointly by the two allies.
"I believe the decision to put THAAD on the Korean Peninsula or even the decision to think about it has to be an alliance decision," Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr. told Yonhap during the Jan. 25 interview. "It has to be a decision that's made together between the U.S. and the ROK. It's not our decision to ask the South, and it's not the ROK decision to ask us to bring it. It's an alliance decision".
Seoul's Defense Ministry also said this week that THAAD will be helpful in defense against the North, a remark seen as a step forward, compared with previous statements that focused on denial of any discussions between the two countries on the issue.
"North Korea is the biggest threat, which is visceral and real. North Korea will present a threat not only to the peninsula but a threat to Japan, Hawaii and the U.S. mainland," the commander added.
Harris said the North's leader Kim Jong-un seeks to be a global player, but he has ended up "a global pariah" because of the nuclear test and other provocations.
Asked whether he believes Pyongyang has mastered miniaturization technology, the commander said he has to be ready for all scenarios.
Japan has also announced on January 30 that it has deployed two Patriot missile interceptors in Tokyo to counter North Korea’s activity.