Rocket Prompts South Korea, U.S. to Start Missile Defense Talks

  • China opposes deployment of Thaad system on Korean peninsula
  • South Korean announcement follows North's rocket launch

South Korea will start formal talks with the U.S. on allowing the placement of an anti-missile system on its territory, in an announcement made hours after North Korea launched a long-range rocket in defiance of warnings from the international community.

The government in Seoul will explore the earliest possible deployment of the U.S.’s Thaad ballistic missile defense system, Yoo Jeh Seung, deputy defense minister for policy, said in a televised briefing Sunday. The system would be used only in defense against North Korean missiles, Yoo said.

Sunday’s rocket launch and last month’s nuclear test underscore the threat of weapons of mass destruction to regional security, prompting South Korea and the U.S. to start talks, Yoo said.

"North Korea continues to develop their nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, and it is the responsibility of our alliance to maintain a strong defense against those threats,” General Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, said in a press release. "THAAD would add an important capability in a layered and effective missile defense."

The deployment of Thaad, developed by Lockheed Martin Corp., may prompt an angry response from China, which has warned the system could spark an arms race on the Korean peninsula. The Thaad issue had left South Korean President Park Geun Hye caught between the U.S, which maintains more than 28,000 troops in the country, and China, its biggest trading partner.

Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said in November that his country was also considering the deployment of Thaad to counter any potential strike from North Korea.

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