SEOUL, March 4 (UPI) -- Defense officials of the United States and South Korea are to launch a joint working group Friday to discuss the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile defense system on the peninsula.
Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, a sophisticated apparatus that could deter incoming missiles, has been met with controversy in the region. Both China and Russia have opposed the deployment of THAAD, which could be used for regional surveillance.
The United States and South Korea have repeatedly stated the system would be deployed solely for the purposes of defending against a North Korea attack.
Deputy Minister for National Defense Policy Ryu Je-seung and Lieutenant General Thomas S. Vandal of U.S. Forces Korea signed the agreement to launch discussions of THAAD deployment in South Korea, local newspaper Maeil Business reported.
Seoul's Defense Ministry said in statement the agreement included plans to put together a joint working group.
Talks regarding THAAD deployment accelerated after North Korea provocations in January and February increased tensions between Seoul and Pyongyang. North Korea has also stepped up its verbal attacks against South Korean President Park Geun-hye, and accused her of a "reckless buildup of armed forces" in the region.
Washington has tried to reassure Beijing the deployment of THAAD is not an attempt to surround China, and both sides confirmed their denuclearization policy for North Korea has not changed, the State Department's John Kirby said Thursday.
South Korea delayed a decision on THAAD for much of 2015, but in the wake of recent tensions is taking North Korea's nuclear and missile threats seriously.
Local newspaper Herald Business quoted the Defense Ministry as saying the deployment of THAAD would be helpful in deterring the threats.