The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a U.S.-based think tank, argued for the necessity of deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea to counter North Korea’s growing nuclear threat, according to a report published on Tuesday.
The report entitled “Asia-Pacific Rebalance 2025” discussed the status quo and prospects for U.S. allies in the Asia-Pacific regions.
CSIS advocated THAAD, a missile defense system originating in the U.S., as an economical choice instead of Seoul designing its own, indigenous, Korean Air and Missile Defense.
“The U.S. experience with these types of systems suggests a multi-decade effort would be required to develop and deploy such a missile defense system. Given the growing missile threat from North Korea, THAAD provides a valuable capability,” the report reads.
Yoo Seung-min, a lawmaker from South Korea’s ruling Saenuri Party, has supported THAAD deployment.
“I think it’s the proper moment to deploy THAAD in Korean Peninsula, right after (North Korea’s) fourth nuclear test,” he said on January 7 at the National Assembly.
President Park Geun-hye mentioned THAAD at her New Year speech last week.
“We will review the deployment of THAAD, according to our security and national interests,” she said.
But Hong Hyun-ik, chief of the Security Strategy Team at the Sejong Institute, said that THAAD can’t defend against North Korea’s nuclear program, because “nuclear (weapons) from North Korea take only five minutes (to hit).”
The report indicated concern over the possibility of Seoul and Tokyo attempting to obtain nuclear capability.
“In particular, South Korea looks to its neighbor Japan as a model of nuclear development. Japan is widely regarded as having achieved nuclear latency, as the only non-nuclear weapons state to possess both uranium enrichment and spent-fuel reprocessing capabilities,” it reads.
Regarding this, Hong said THAAD is a way to prevent South Korea from going nuclear.
Another researcher said THAAD’s deployment is being justified thanks to North Korea’s nuclear program, in the face of skepticism as to its usefulness.
“The usefulness of THAAD is greatly suspected, and people who support it need an example,” said Park Seon-won, former security secretary for the Blue House under the Roh Moo-hyun administration, told NK News.
The report also expressed concern over stronger ties between Seoul and Beijing.
“Seoul has been hesitant to stand publicly with the U.S. in building the capacity of the smaller countries (around China) in response to Beijing’s land-reclamation activities over disputed territories. Seoul’s equities remain parochially focused on gaining China’s favor on North Korea,” the report said.
“THAAD has political and diplomatic meaning, which disturbs the relationship between China and South Korea.”
The ties between two are becoming closer, as seen by South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s six visits to China.
On January 6, right after North Korea’s fourth nuclear test, South Korea’s influential conservative newspaper Chosun Ilbo openly called for Chinese President Xi Jinping to press North Korea.