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THAAD in South Korea ready to shoot down missiles, Seoul says

By Elizabeth Shim
THAAD in South Korea ready to shoot down missiles, Seoul says
Seoul said the missile defense system THAAD has “initial operational capabilities,” a week after a battery was deployed to its designated site in central South Korea. File Photo by U.S. Air Force/UPI | License Photo

May 2 (UPI) -- The U.S. missile defense system THAAD is operational in South Korea and ready to strike down incoming North Korea missiles, Seoul's defense ministry said Tuesday.

But the announcement comes at a time when more South Korean activists are calling for a review of THAAD's hasty deployment last week, and after remarks from U.S. President Donald Trump suggesting a review of burden-sharing arrangements riled South Koreans.

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Yonhap reported Tuesday Seoul's defense ministry spokesman Moon Sang-kyun confirmed previous statements regarding THAAD.

Moon said that he is able to "confirm the equipment currently deployed can be used to demonstrate initial [operational] capabilities with regards to North Korea's nuclear and missile threats."

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The defense ministry also said there would be no renegotiation of THAAD payments, a statement that was earlier reaffirmed by U.S. National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster on Sunday.

"What I told our South Korean counterpart is until any renegotiation, that the deal's in place, we'll adhere to our word," McMaster had said.

A report for South Korean television network JTBC, however, points out the cost-sharing agreement on THAAD could change if it becomes combined with other issues.

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THAAD deployment is currently itemized as a cost of maintaining U.S. troops on the peninsula, which is covered by the U.S. Army per Article V of the Status of Forces Agreement with Korea.

But if THAAD is re-itemized as a "separate weapon for the defense of the Korean peninsula," that agreement could change, according to the South Korean press report.

Some analysts in Seoul have recommended alternative solutions, including a more independent deployment of the same missile defense that could also mitigate Chinese concern of U.S. surveillance, local newspaper Munhwa Ilbo reported Tuesday.

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The THAAD system costs up to $1 billion, a number Trump mentioned in his comments last week.

Beijing issued a warning again on Tuesday and said "necessary measures" could be taken in response to THAAD, according to Yonhap.

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