US will pay for THAAD, says Seoul

New Straits Times - - World -

SEOUL: South Korea said Wash­ing­ton had reaf­firmed it would shoul­der the cost of de­ploy­ing the Ter­mi­nal High Alti­tude Area De­fence (THAAD) anti-mis­sile sys­tem, days af­ter United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said Seoul should pay for the US$1 bil­lion (RM4.3 bil­lion) sys­tem de­signed to de­fend against nu­cle­ar­armed North Korea.

In a call yes­ter­day, Trump’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser H.R. McMaster re­as­sured his South Korean coun­ter­part, Kim Kwan-jin, that the US al­liance with South Korea was its top pri­or­ity in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion, the South’s pres­i­den­tial of­fice said.

The con­ver­sa­tion fol­lowed an­other North Korean mis­sile test­launch on Satur­day, which Wash­ing­ton and Seoul said was un­suc­cess­ful, but drew wide­spread in­ter­na­tional con­dem­na­tion.

Trump, asked about his mes­sage to North Korea af­ter the lat­est mis­sile test, said: “You’ll soon find out”, but did not elab­o­rate.

Trump’s com­ments in an in­ter­view on Thurs­day that he wanted Seoul to pay for the THAAD de­ploy­ment per­plexed South Kore­ans and raised ques­tions about his com­mit­ment to their al­liance.

South Korean of­fi­cials re­sponded that the cost was for Wash­ing­ton to bear un­der the bi­lat­eral agreement.

“McMaster ex­plained that Trump’s state­ments were made in a gen­eral con­text, in line with the US pub­lic ex­pec­ta­tions on de­fence cost bur­den-shar­ing with al­lies,” South Korea’s Blue House said in a state­ment.

Ma­jor el­e­ments of the THAAD sys­tem were moved into the planned site in Seon­jgu, in the south of the coun­try, this week.

South Korea and the US said the sole pur­pose of THAAD was to guard against North Korean mis­siles. China said its pow­er­ful radar could pen­e­trate its ter­ri­tory and un­der­mine its se­cu­rity and spoke out against it this week. The US is seek­ing help from China, the North’s ma­jor ally, to rein in Py­ongyang’s nu­clear and mis­sile de­vel­op­ment.

The North has been con­duct­ing mis­sile and nu­clear weapons re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties at an un­prece­dented rate and is be­lieved to have made progress in de­vel­op­ing in­ter­me­di­ate-range and sub­ma­rine-launched mis­siles.

Ten­sion on the Korean penin­sula has been high for weeks over fears the North may con­duct a long-range mis­sile test, or its sixth nu­clear test, around April 15, which is the an­niver­sary of its state founder’s birth.

Trump told CBS News on Satur­day that the US and China would “not be happy” with a nu­clear test but gave no de­tails.

On Satur­day, Phillip­ines Pres­i­dent Duterte urged the US to show re­straint af­ter the North’s lat­est mis­sile test and to avoid play­ing into the hands of leader Kim Jong-un. Reuters

Pro­test­ers hold­ing plac­ards dur­ing a rally against the de­ploy­ment of the THAAD anti-mis­sile sys­tem near the US em­bassy in Seoul on Fri­day. AFP PIC

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