US will pay for THAAD, says Seoul
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