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S. Korea to consider military efficacy over THAAD, not China, Russia

2016/02/12 16:32

SEOUL, Feb. 12 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean military will strategically focus on picking a candidate site for the U.S. missile defense system THAAD, rather than on a backlash from China and Russia, a high-ranking defense ministry official said Friday, as Seoul and Washington are poised to begin formal talks next week on the sensitive matter.

"Considering the stances of neighboring countries when (South Korea) picking an area to host the THAAD is not militarily (right)," the Defense Ministry official said on the condition of anonymity.

China has expressed "serious concern" over the deployment plan, which the country believes would put it within the range of the U.S. defense system. Russia is also unnerved by South Korea's move.

The official stressed that the THAAD, if deployed in South Korea, would target North Korea alone over its growing nuclear and missile capabilities.

He also dismissed a view that South Korea is being drawn into the U.S. missile defense network.

"It does not necessarily mean South Korea joins the U.S. missile defense system," the official said. "The THAAD does not intercept intercontinental ballistic missiles nor does it intend to defend the mainland U.S. or any other third country."

   The Defense Ministry has previously said the THAAD will be mobilized to intercept North Korea's short- to semi-medium-range missiles.

South Korea plans to choose location to host the THAAD in consideration of military effectiveness as well as the impact the deployment could have on the safety of South Koreans and the environment, he said.

Some observers said the U.S. is expected to position a THAAD battery in the southeastern province of Gyeongsang, relatively far from China.

The South Korea-U.S. working group on the issue is likely to kick off their negotiations next week on specific issues related with the deployment, according to the official.

"South Korea and the U.S. are now in their final stage of drawing up terms of reference for the running of the joint working group ... the working group may be able to start their discussion as early as next week," he said.

The time of an actual deployment will hinge on how long the discussion and preparations take, the official noted, adding that "Basically, South Korea and the U.S. seek to deploy it at the earliest time possible."