Uncategorized US missile defense system still up in air for South Korea

US missile defense system still up in air for South Korea

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey

(AA) – Leading military officials from South Korea and the United States met in Seoul on Friday, without making any apparent progress on deploying a controversial U.S. missile defense system in South Korea.

U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey’s visit to the South Korean capital followed a brief stay in Japan.

The missile system in question, known as THAAD (Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense), has been viewed as a potential counter-measure to North Korea’s missile development — but it has also drawn the public concern of China and opposition lawmakers in Seoul.

South Korea has been caught diplomatically between key economic partner Beijing and long-standing military ally Washington.

Seoul did decide Thursday to join up with the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, despite the institution being viewed as a threat to U.S. influence in the region and amid open caution from Washington over whether it will meet global standards.

The possibility of the South Korean government attempting to appease the U.S. by pursuing the deployment of THAAD was noted Friday by the main opposition New Politics for Democracy.

“I’m concerned that the sudden decision to join the China-led AIIB may be an attempt to establish the deployment of a THAAD system as requested by the U.S. as a fact, and an attempt to strike a balance by giving one each to the U.S. and China,” lawmaker Joo Seung-yong said at a party meeting, according to local news agency Yonhap.

But the news service also cited a Joint Chiefs of Staff official in Seoul claiming that THAAD was not officially discussed by Dempsey during Friday’s meetings with his South Korean counterpart Admiral Choi Yun-hee and Defense Minister Han Min-koo. Another officer reportedly insisted that the matter should be first up for discussion between Seoul and Washington policymakers.

Dempsey’s media briefing planned for after the talks was cancelled, though some comments from his meeting with Han were made available to the media. The general was quoted as celebrating “very important and productive conversations.”

He also hailed their “progress on building an integrated air and missile defense umbrella” — leaving onlookers to speculate on the meaning of any ‘progress’ related to THAAD.

Further light may be shed on the issue next month, when U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter is also due to visit South Korea, where nearly 30,000 American military personnel are stationed as a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.

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