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(LEAD) U.S. eyes more missile defense ties with S. Korea

2014/05/29 04:18

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, May 28 (Yonhap) -- The United States will continue to push for closer cooperation with South Korea and other regional allies to counter North Korea's ballistic missile threats, a senior Pentagon official said Wednesday amid widespread speculation that Washington is pressing Seoul to do more in the regional missile defense system.

"We're encouraging our allies and partners to acquire their own missile defenses and to strengthen regional missile defense cooperation that will result in better performance than individual countries acting alone," Adm. James A. Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff, said in a speech at Atlantic Council here.

He emphasized the seriousness of North Korea's missile capability and the need to bolster a defense posture.

"We're not betting on Dennis Rodman as our deterrent against a further North Korean ICBM threat," he said. "The cornerstone of our security and diplomacy has been our strong bilateral alliances with South Korea, Japan, and Australia. Going forward, we will continue to emphasize the importance of developing regional ballistic missile defense systems."

   His comments came as South Korean officials say Seoul has no plans to formally join the Washington-led missile defense network.

They prefer the word "interoperable" to "integrated."

   South Korea is developing its own air and missile defense system.

But the U.S. is considering deploying advanced missile defense equipment to Korea, according to a news report.

The U.S. has conducted a site survey in South Korea for possible locations for a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery, but no final decisions have been made to deploy the system, the Wall Street Journal quoted unidentified officials as saying.

Deploying a THAAD system to South Korea could represent an important incentive for Seoul to cooperate more fully with the U.S. and Japan in a planned regional missile defense system, added the newspaper.

In response to North Korea missile threats last year, the U.S. sent a THAAD battery to Guam.

"There it remains, readily deployable if necessary to somewhere else in the world if needed, but in the meantime defending U.S. soil from potential threats," the admiral said.

lcd@yna.co.kr

leechidong@gmail.com

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