The U.S. missile defense system THAAD, or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, is being reconsidered for deployment in South Korea. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Defense
SEOUL, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- South Korea is reconsidering the deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system in the wake of North Korea's fourth nuclear test, after postponing a decision on the U.S. missile defense system for much of 2015.
Seoul Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said Thursday South Korea plans to review the potential deployment of THAAD by U.S. forces in the country, South Korean newspaper Segye Ilbo reported. Kim said the review would take into account North Korea's nuclear and missile threats, as well as Seoul's "security and national interests."
South Korea, however, remains wary of provoking China. Beijing officials have previously expressed concern regarding the deployment of the nuclear deterrent on the peninsula and its capacities for regional surveillance.
One South Korean senior diplomatic security official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said he hoped Seoul would move toward deploying a deterrent in a time when North Korea has unleashed a new threat and U.S.-South Korea cooperation can be strengthened.
Hyun In-taek, a former unification minister, said in light of North Korea's advancement in nuclear weapons capabilities, South Korean combat forces alone are unable to defend the South from an attack.
Seoul's homegrown anti-missile systems, the Korean Air and Missile Defense, or KAMD, and Kill Chain, won't be built until the early 2020s, Hyun stated in South Korean journal "New Asia," and South Korea's military preparedness is "not enough."
North Korea's claim of a "successful" hydrogen bomb test continues to be touted as a victory in the country – but the experiment, a violation of several United Nations Security Council resolutions, has been universally condemned.
U.S. experts also raised the issue of THAAD before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific Wednesday.
Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation, recommended South Korea request deployment of THAAD during a testimony that addressed the issue of North Korea's nuclear provocations.
"South Korea's indigenous missile defense system is insufficient to defend against North Korea's growing nuclear and missile threat," Klingner stated.
At the same hearing, North Korea analyst Victor Cha of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the "emplacement of THAAD on the peninsula" could lead to "better missile defense cooperation" between the United States and its two allies Japan and South Korea.