South Korea and U.S. Begin Formal Talks on Missile Shield

NNA – Hours after a North Korean long-range rocket launch, Washington and Seoul said they were in consultations over the deployment of an advanced missile defense shield in South Korea.

The potential deployment of a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad, system on the Korean Peninsula is strongly opposed by China. Wary of closer cooperation between the U.S. and South Korea, Beijing has warned Seoul that the introduction of Thaad could hurt their bilateral ties.

China’s foreign ministry didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The move by Seoul and Washington to begin formal talks comes after informal discussions between the two sides over Thaad increased following North Korea’s nuclear bomb test on Jan. 6.

The goal of the consultations is to “explore the feasibility of Thaad deploying to and operating on the Korean Peninsula at the earliest possible date,” U.S. Forces Korea and the South Korean government said in a joint statement on Sunday.

“The Republic of Korea and the U.S. have determined that today’s long-range ballistic missile launch and recent nuclear test by North Korea highlights the serious nuclear, weapons of mass destruction, and ballistic missile threat they pose to the peace and stability of the ROK and the entire Asia-Pacific region,” according to the statement.

The Thaad system targets and destroys incoming missiles at high altitudes. South Korea’s existing missile defenses and its plans for new technology are designed to defend against missiles at lower altitudes.

Defense officials said that Thaad would be focused solely on North Korea and contribute to a “layered missile defense” to enhance the alliance’s existing missile defense capabilities.–WSJ

============R.Z.