September 09, 2016 09:34
The U.S. on Tuesday signaled it could reconsider deploying a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery in South Korea if North Korea abandons its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
Asked under what circumstances the U.S. would scrap the deployment, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said, "In terms of what could lead us to change our minds, North Korea could abandon its ballistic missile program and nuclear programs."
He was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Laos, where he was accompanying U.S. President Barack Obama.
Until recently Washington only stressed that the THAAD deployment is aimed at dealing with threats from the North and has nothing to do with China, but did not explicitly identify it as a bargaining chip.
Rhodes' remarks seem aimed at finding a breakthrough in tensions with Beijing over the planned deployment and indirectly forcing the North back to the negotiating table.
Rhodes said even if China came fully on board with sanctions against the North, that alone "would not lead to a reconsideration of THAAD."
"A change of behavior from North Korea is the thing that could change that calculus, but we have not yet seen any indication, given that they just recently launched another ballistic missile," he added.
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