U.S. troop leader in South Korea wants deployment of new missile defense against North

SEOUL Mon Jun 2, 2014 11:52pm EDT

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) and commander of combined U.S.-South Korea forces U.S. Army General Curtis Scaparrotti (R) wear their caps upon arrival at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the military border separating the two Koreas, in Panmunjom December 7, 2013. REUTERS/Lee Jin-man/Pool

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) and commander of combined U.S.-South Korea forces U.S. Army General Curtis Scaparrotti (R) wear their caps upon arrival at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the military border separating the two Koreas, in Panmunjom December 7, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Lee Jin-man/Pool

SEOUL (Reuters) - The commander of U.S. troops stationed in South Korea said on Tuesday he had proposed deploying an advanced missile-defense system to the country, to counter the growing threat of North Korea’s weapons capabilities.

In March, the North test fired a mid-range Rodong missile with a range of more than 1,000 km (600 miles), prompting condemnation from the U.N. Security Council, and being seen as preparing to conduct a fourth nuclear test.

"I recommended the deployment of the THAAD (Theater High Altitude Area Defense) missiles to South Korea," Yonhap News Agency quoted General Curtis Scaparrotti, the commander of U.S. forces in South Korea, as saying.

The top U.S. military official also acts as the head of the combined command leading South Korea and U.S. forces defending the South, which remains technically at war with North Korea under a truce that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

The United States has carried out a site survey in South Korea for possible locations for the THAAD battery, but no final decisions have been made to deploy the system, media have reported.

Scaparrotti said the United States had yet to start official discussions with South Korean officials over the deployment.

South Korea's defense ministry said the country would review cooperation with the United States on the deployment once Washington formally made the proposal.

"I understand the U.S. defense department was internally studying (the defense system's deployment). When a formal request for cooperation comes in from the American side, the defense ministry will consider it," ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told a news briefing.

South Korea has so far opted not to be part of the U.S. missile defense partnership that covers the defense of Japan from the North's missile threats.

Instead, it has been developing its own independent anti-missile system, the Korean Air and Missile Defense System (KAMD).

North Korea may be closer than previously thought to putting a nuclear warhead on a missile, some experts say, making a mockery of years of U.N. sanctions to curb such a program. [ID:nL3N0O12OB]

The United States will not be deterred from plans to strengthen its military position in Asia by emerging threats elsewhere, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has said. [ID:nL1N0OG038]

The U.S. THAAD system is designed to intercept ballistic missiles at high altitudes.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Jack Kim and Clarence Fernandez)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (2)
Bensony wrote:
Are you sure your hightech missile defence system will be able to protect S. Korea in an attack from the north? Pray tell us your answer. In all probability, these high-tech stuff will be useless in a conventional attack across the 38th parallel using long-distance artillery (which we’re sure N. Korea has plenty), tanks and infantry. Such an attack will almost certainly engulf Seoul in a “sea of fire” as the unpredictable leader of the north described it. As an industrialised and affluent nation S. Korea has much much more to lose than its impoverished but militarily powerful neighbour to the north. And if a threatened China enters the fray as happened in the 1950 war, there will be more sorrows for the South Koreans. For the sake of the people of Korea, please stop this warmongering. And keep your high-tech weapon systems at home, they have not helped you win any war since 1945.

Jun 03, 2014 5:12am EDT  --  Report as abuse
sabrefencer wrote:
the south Koreans need to do something..the north grows its armies stronger by the day….the south watches and depends on us, to stop a potential invasion…south needs to learn, under Obama, we will do nothing, but TV appearances..they need to be building up their systems and militaries by them selves, for themselves…

Jun 03, 2014 7:12am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

A tourist takes a plunge as she swims at Ngapali Beach, a popular tourist site, in the Thandwe township of the Rakhine state, October 6, 2013. Picture taken October 6, 2013. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun (MYANMAR - Tags: SOCIETY) - RTR3FOI0

Where do you want to go?

We look at when to take trips, budget considerations and the popularity of multigenerational family travel.   Video