WASHINGTON, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- The United States' chief diplomat for East Asian and Pacific affairs said Tuesday a U.S. missile defense system is to be deployed as early as possible in South Korea.
Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel told the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia THAAD is to be deployed to the Korean peninsula "on an accelerated basis," Yonhap reported.
Asked whether THAAD can be placed in position by 2017, Russel said, "Given the accelerating pace of North Korea's missile tests, we intend to deploy on an accelerated basis, I would say, as soon as possible."
Russel also said THAAD is being used as a deterrent against potential North Korean threats and is not being used to monitor China.
China has been vocal about its opposition to THAAD. In August Beijing's defense ministry had said THAAD deployment is a "violation of China's strategic interests and is undermining the strategic mutual interest between China and the United States."
Russel disagreed with that claim on Tuesday, adding deterrence and defense are at the core of comprehensive U.S. North Korea strategy, according to the South Korean press report.
"This is a defensive measure aimed not at China, but at North Korea. It is a defense-based decision, not a political decision. And it is part of a layered system of defense that will augment many military installations and systems currently in place," he said.
Washington and Seoul had agreed to deploy THAAD by late 2017.
On the topic of intelligence sharing among the United States, South Korea and Japan Russel said the three sides have worked together through the December 2014 Trilateral Information Sharing Arrangement to "coordinate approaches on addressing the [North Korea] missile and nuclear threat."
Russel also said the increased threats from North Korea has increased the willingness of South Korea and Japan to share military intelligence bilaterally, according to Yonhap.
Seoul and Tokyo have been revisiting a canceled intelligence-sharing agreement known as the Japan-Korea GSOMIA.
GSOMIA was canceled in 2012 due to South Korean domestic opposition, but more South Korean experts are supporting the agreement in the wake of North Korea's multiple provocations.