South Korea Eyes Thaad, Patriot-3 Missile Systems, U.S. Says

South Korea’s military is analyzing which U.S.-made missile interceptors best meet its defense needs, according to the Pentagon.

President Park Geun Hye’s government has received information on both Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Patriot Pac-3 and its longer-range Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, known as Thaad, a U.S. Defense Department official said yesterday.

The U.S. has been in talks with the South Korean government for several years on improving its missile-defense capabilities, Peppino DeBiaso, the Pentagon director of missile-defense policy, said in an interview.

“They’ve made no national decision to this point,” so the U.S. continues to perform analysis with Korean officials, “trying to help them reach a decision about the capabilities they would have,” DeBiaso said.

American officials see improved missile-defense systems as a necessary improvement before the U.S. hands over command of South Korea’s wartime defenses, as scheduled for December 2015.

Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of U.S. forces in Korea, said in written testimony last year to the Senate Armed Services Committee that South Korea needed an “upper tier” interceptor, such as Thaad from Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed, and also “more powerful sensors,” such as the AN/TPY-2 Radar made by Waltham, Massachusetts-based Raytheon Co., “to defeat medium and intermediate-range missiles.”

Requested Data

“It’s important” that the South Koreans acquire some of their own missile-defense capabilities, DeBiaso said. “What those are and when they make that decision remains” in the government’s hands, he said.

The South Koreans have received information on Patriot Pac-3, Thaad and Raytheon’s Standard Missile air defense weapons, DeBiaso said. “They’ve requested that data so they understand” the capabilities and costs, he said.

The Pentagon has no preference as to which system South Korea should purchase, DeBiaso said. The United Arab Emirates is the only U.S. ally to purchase the Thaad system.

The U.S. deployed a Thaad system to Guam last year after North Korea missile firings. It remains there.

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