The US and South Korea have agreed to deploy an advanced American missile system on Korean territory this year, South Korea’s Defense Ministry says.
US Defense Secretary James Mattis and South Korea’s Defense Minister Han Min-koo, agreed during a meeting in Seoul “to deploy and operate Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system within this year as planned, which is a defense system solely against North Korea’s missile threat,” the South Korean ministry said on Friday.
Mattis arrived in Soul for a two-day visit on Thursday, when underscored “America’s priority commitment to our bilateral alliance” and show Washington’s “full commitment” to defending South Korea against perceived threats from North Korea.
US warns North Korea
On a first overseas tour by a senior member of US President Donald Trump’s administration, Mattis also threatened North Korea with an “effective and overwhelming” response to any use of its nuclear weapons.
“Any attack on the United States or our allies will be defeated and any use of nuclear weapons would be met with a response that would be effective and overwhelming,” he said in Seoul.
The American defense secretary also met the acting-President of South Korea Hwang Kyo-ahn.
“Right now we have to address the reality of the threat that your country and my country faces and we intend to be shoulder-to-shoulder with you as we face this together,” he told Hwang.
During a telephone conversation between Trump and Hwang back on Sunday, Trump had “reiterated our ironclad commitment to defend (South Korea).”
The controversial plan to deploy THAAD on South Korea’s soil has infuriated not only the neighboring North, but China, which has repeatedly condemned the move as destabilizing regional security.
Beijing sees the move as an effort by Washington to extend its military alliance network from Japan all the way down to the South China Sea. It has slapped a series of measures seen by Seoul as economic retaliation.
Mattis, however, claimed that no other country than North Korea “needs to be concerned” about THAAD, which has purportedly been designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range, medium-range, and some intermediate-range ballistic missiles in flight.
China resolutely opposes THAAD
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang reacted to the announcement of the planned deployment on Friday, saying Beijing resolutely opposed the deployment of the American missile system.
North Korea, which is under international sanctions for its nuclear and ballistic missiles activities, has repeatedly announced that it will stop those activities when Washington ends its hostile posture toward Pyongyang.
The North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said earlier in January that his country was in the “final stages” of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which is said to be capable of reaching the US mainland.