Defense Secretary Ashton Carter says the United States will go on with the proposed deployment of a US missile system in South Korea despite Chinese complaints.
The US and South Korea began official discussions last month on possible deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to combat the threat of North Korea’s missiles.
“It’s going to happen,” Carter said Friday at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. “No, it’s a necessary thing. It’s between us and the South Koreans. It’s part of protecting our own forces on the Korean Peninsula and protecting South Korea. It has nothing to do with the Chinese.”
North Korea tested its fourth nuclear bomb in January and launched a long-range rocket the next month, prompting harsh reactions from the US and the South.
China agreed to tough new sanctions on North Korea at the UN Security Council, but has said it is “firmly opposed” to the deployment of the THAAD system, which has a range that would extend far beyond the Korean Peninsula.
Beijing sees THAAD deployment as part of a broader US strategy to contain China and has expressed concern that the advanced missile system might be used to “target China.”
Washington has said the proposed deployment is designed purely to counter the threat of North Korean missiles and would not harm China’s strategic deterrent.
Carter said in his remarks that the US would like to see China “work bilaterally with North Korea more effectively.”
“But we need to defend our own people, we need to defend our own allies, and we are going to do that,” the Pentagon chief said.
The Korean Peninsula has been locked in a cycle of military rhetoric since the Korean War, which lasted from 1950 to 1953. No peace deal has been signed since then, meaning that Pyongyang and Seoul remain technically at war.