March 19, 2015 10:20
South Korea and the U.S. will discuss the controversial deployment of Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system by the U.S. Forces Korea during regular defense talks in Washington in April, an official here said Wednesday.
The two-day session attended by senior defense officials "will handle all defense issues involving the two countries," a Defense Ministry official said. "It's likely that they'll also discuss the THAAD, albeit unofficially."
The biannual vice-ministerial-level meeting coordinates various bilateral defense bodies. But the ministry said the THAAD deployment is not officially on the agenda.
The U.S., however, has already scouted seven candidate sites where a THAAD battery could be placed. The likeliest site is Pyeongtaek, the new home of USFK headquarters.
The fiction that the two sides have yet to discuss the matter is wearing increasingly thin. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, is visiting South Korea late this month to meet his South Korean counterpart Adm. Choi Yoon-hee.
And U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry are expected here next month.
Seoul is unlikely to abandon its policy of strategic ambiguity because China is against the THAAD deployment and putting equal pressure on Seoul as the U.S.
A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department reacted irritably to the question of Chinese objections on Tuesday. Asked why China is opposed to THAAD placement in South Korea, Jen Psaki said, "I would ask the Chinese Government that question."
Asked again, she said, "I'm not going to speak on behalf of the Chinese Government."
She was speaking after Daniel Russel, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said the previous day, "I find it curious that a third country would presume to make strong representations about a security system that has not been put in place, and that is still a matter of theory."
Russel was reacting to Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao, who said it "would be appreciated" if Seoul took the position of neighboring countries into account.
The THAAD form the core of the U.S. missile defense aimed at containing China in the region, but Seoul and Washington insist their famously undiscussed deployment here would only aim to counter the threat from North Korea.
"We have not formally consulted with South Korea on THAAD deployment, and no decisions have been made on a potential deployment to the Korean Peninsula," Psaki claimed.
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