SKorea says US will pay THAAD costs
South Korea says Washington has reaffirmed it will shoulder the cost of deploying the THAAD anti-missile system, days after US President Donald Trump said Seoul should pay for the $US1billion ($A1.3 billion) system designed to defend against nuclear-armed North Korea.
In a telephone call on Sunday, Trump’s national security adviser, HR McMaster, reassured his South Korean counterpart, Kim Kwan-jin, that the US alliance with South Korea was its top priority in the Asia-Pacific region, the South’s presidential office said.
The conversation followed another North Korean missile test-launch on Saturday which Washington and Seoul said was unsuccessful, but which drew widespread international condemnation.
Trump, asked about his message to North Korea after the latest missile test, told reporters: “You’ll soon find out”, but did not elaborate on what the US response would be.
Trump’s comments in an interview with Reuters on Thursday that he wanted Seoul to pay for the THAAD deployment perplexed South Koreans and raised questions about his commitment to the two countries’ alliance.
South Korean officials responded that the cost was for Washington to bear, under the bilateral agreement.
“National Security Adviser HR McMaster explained that the recent statements by President Trump were made in a general context, in line with the US public expectations on defence cost burden-sharing with allies,” South Korea’s Blue House said in a statement, adding that McMaster requested the call.
Major elements of the advanced Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system were moved into the planned site in Seonjgu, in the south of the country, this week.
South Korea and the US say the sole purpose of THAAD is to guard against North Korean missiles. China says its powerful radar can penetrate its territory and undermine its security and spoke out against it again this week.
The North has been conducting missile and nuclear weapons related activities at an unprecedented rate and is believed to have made progress in developing intermediate-range and submarine-launched missiles.
The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group arrived in waters near the Korean peninsula and began exercises with the South Korean navy late on Saturday.
The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, said on Saturday inter-continental ballistic rockets will fly into the US “if the US shows any slight sign of provocation”.