February 04, 2010 08:17
The U.S. Defense Department claims South Korea is interested in participating in a U.S.-led ballistic missile defense system, but Seoul officials deny that any concrete commitment has been made. In a report released Monday, the department said Seoul "is also an important U.S. BMD partner" and "has indicated interest in acquiring a missile defense capability that includes land- and sea-based systems, early warning radars, and a command and control system."
"The United States and [South Korea] are working to define possible future BMD requirements," the report says. It expresses the hope that South Korea will actively participate, saying, "The United States looks forward to taking further steps to enhance operational coordination and build upon ongoing missile defense cooperation" between Seoul and Washington.
But South Korean military authorities on Wednesday dismissed the claims, saying the report does not represent an official expression of the U.S. government views. They say there has been no formal request through diplomatic channels, nor has Seoul expressed such an interest.
Defense Ministry spokesman Won Tae-jae said, "Whether to participate in the missile defense system is a matter that needs comprehensive consideration of the security situation on the Korean Peninsula and worldwide."
Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commander of the U.S. Army Pacific Command, on Tuesday said the U.S. is seeking a tripartite military exercise of the South Korean and U.S. armies and Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force, a claim Seoul also denies.
In a telephone talk with Defense Department bloggers, Mixon said South Korea, the U.S., and Japan have discussed ways to stage a multilateral or trilateral exercise for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
The Defense Ministry denied this report as well, saying it had no such discussions and made no such plans.
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