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Pentagon: U.S. believes S. Korea won't reverse THAAD deployment

All Headlines 03:40 June 08, 2017

WASHINGTON, June 7 (Yonhap) -- The United States believes South Korean won't reverse the decision to host the THAAD missile defense system, the Pentagon said Wednesday after Seoul suspended the deployment pending an environmental assessment.

Seoul's presidential office, Cheong Wa Dae, said earlier in the day that deployment of four launchers for the THAAD battery should wait until the environmental study is over, though two, already-deployed launchers won't be withdrawn.

The U.S. could see the suspension as a setback to its efforts to fully deploy the system as soon as possible, while China could welcome the decision as it has railed strongly against the system, which it claims hurts its security interests.

"The U.S. trusts the ROK official stance that the THAAD deployment was an Alliance decision and it will not be reversed. We will continue to work closely with the ROK Government throughout this process," Cmdr. Gary Ross, a Pentagon spokesman, told Yonhap News Agency.

"We have worked closely and have been fully transparent with the ROK government throughout this process. U.S. Forces Korea confirmed in May 2017 that the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system is operational and has the ability to intercept North Korean missiles and defend the Republic of Korea," he said.

Pentagon: U.S. believes S. Korea won't reverse THAAD deployment - 1

The THAAD unit in South Korea reached its initial operational capability in late April after the U.S. brought in two launchers in early March. Four additional launchers have since arrived in South Korea to add to the system for full deployment aimed at intercepting North Korean missile attacks.

The arrival of the four additional launchers emerged as a top political issue in South Korea following revelations the Defense Ministry deliberately omitted the fact in a report to the office of new President Moon Jae-in

That raised allegations of a cover-up, with Moon expressing frustration and ordering a probe into how the omission happened. The probe determined that a senior Defense Ministry official ordered the deletion of the four launchers' arrival from the report to the presidential office.

The THAAD deployment has become more unpopular in South Korea as the public raised questions about decisions made by former President Park Geun-hye, who was impeached and then ultimately ousted from office on corruption charges. It was when Park was in office that Seoul decided to host the system.

Her successor, Moon, has also been critical of the decision, saying it was made without due process to collect public opinion.

U.S. President Donald Trump fueled opposition to THAAD among the South Korean public by demanding Seoul pay for the US$1 billion system. The demand runs counter to a deployment agreement under which the U.S. agreed to pay for the system if the South agreed to host it and provide land.

jschang@yna.co.kr
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