Amid growing tensions in the Korean peninsula over North Korea’s continued missile tests, the deployment of a U.S. missile defense system in South Korea is seen as a critical part of efforts to lessen North Korea’s leverage from asymmetric weapons, a top American military commander in Seoul said Thursday.
Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, who leads the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), made the comments a day after leader Kim Jong Un reportedly ordered mass production of a medium-range ballistic missile with the ability to reach U.S. bases.
Brooks said, according to Yonhap News, a “very dangerous situation” is looming over the peninsula as North Korea carried out missile launches, claiming to be capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Pyongyang’s actions are holding South Korea and neighboring countries at risk, and there is need to “take that risk away without taking his systems away,” he said.
“I am not suggesting that we allow him to keep his weapons,” Brooks said, during a speech at a security forum in Seoul. “We have to actually address the vulnerabilities we have here in the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and find ways to lessen that vulnerability.”
While talking about the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system, Brooks said the weapon provided the allies with a critical and unprecedented “area defense” against the threats from North Korea.
“This is all about North Korean missiles and the threat that North Korean missiles pose to the Republic of Korea, and it’s for the defense of the Republic of Korea and nothing else,” Brooks said.
THAAD has been designed to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles either just inside or outside the earth’s atmosphere. Its deployment in a rural region some 180 miles southeast of Seoul raised concerns not only for North Korea but also China.
China, which is Seoul’s top trading partner, expressed concerns THAAD could…