By Chang Jae-soon
WASHINGTON, April 29 (Yonhap) -- The potential deployment of the THAAD missile defense system to South Korea should not affect China's pressure on North Korea because THAAD is aimed only at the North and reining in Pyongyang is in China's interest, the White House said Friday.
Shortly after the North's long-range rocket launch in February, South Korea and the U.S. jointly announced they would begin official discussions on the possible placement of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system in South Korea.
China has strongly opposed the possible THAAD deployment, claiming the system, especially its radar, could be used against it, despite repeated U.S. assurances that it is only aimed at defending against threats from North Korea.
Asked whether THAAD's deployment to the South could affect China's pressure on the North, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said, "It shouldn't."
"The THAAD battery would be oriented to the threat in North Korea, not oriented to China in any way," Earnest said at a regular briefing.
Earnest also said that China is also concerned about the North's behavior.
"The point is China using its influence on the North Korean government to get them to end their provocative acts is not something that they do as a favor to the United States," he said, adding that getting Pyongyang to end provocations is rooted in China's self-interest.
"Having all of this provocative behavior and this conflict and this destabilizing activity on their doorstep is not in their interest," he said.
Earnest also stressed that the U.S. commitment to South Korea's defense is "rock solid."
"We have seen repeated provocations, particularly in just the last few months, from North Korea vowing to use their military might against our allies," he said.
The assessment of military and national security experts is that additional resources could be necessary to ensure the safety and security of the South, and that's why the U.S. has engaged in consultations with Seoul about THAAD deployment, he said.
Earnest said, however, that it is ultimately up to the South to decide whether to accept THAAD deployment.
"We would defer to the preferences of our allies in South Korea about whether or not they would like to have this additional equipment located on their territory. The assessment of our military and national security experts is that it could be a good idea for them to do that," he said.
"Ultimately this is a sovereign country and because they're an ally of the United States, we're looking for ways to help them. And this is one potential way we could offer some assistance to them and enhance their security. But ultimately, they would make the final call," he added.
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