by WorldTribune Staff, April 28, 2017
The United States and South Korea on April 28 pledged to maintain an “ironclad defense posture” against the threat from North Korea and pressed China to accept the need for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.
Meanwhile, in an interview with Reuters on April 27, U.S. President Donald Trump said a “major, major conflict” with North Korea was possible over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Trump said he wanted to resolve the crisis peacefully, possibly through the use of new economic sanctions, although a military option was not off the table.
“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea,” Trump said.
“We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult,” he said, describing North Korea as his biggest global challenge.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his South Korean counterpart Army Gen. Lee Sun-Jin said in a statement that the two sides agreed to explore the “full range of available options, including strengthening the regular deployment of U.S. strategic assets, to bolster the alliance’s ability to deter and, where necessary, respond to North Korean nuclear, weapons of mass destruction, and ballistic missile use.”
About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea.
The allies also highlighted the importance of deploying THAAD system on the peninsula as a “purely defensive measure focused solely on North Korea,” the statement said.
Dunford and Lee also took a swipe apparently at China, which strongly opposes the presence of the advanced missile defense system near its soil. The two urged “concerned parties” to actively address the “root cause” that makes the deployment of THAAD in Korea necessary.
Key components of the THAAD system have already been deployed at a site on a golf course in the southeastern town of Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province. South Korean defense officials said it would soon be operational.
U.S. President Donald Trump told Reuters in an interview on April 27 that he wants South Korea to pay the cost of the THAAD system, which he estimated at $1 billion.
The U.S. and South Korean navies staged a joint live-fire drill near the western sea border between the two Koreas earlier this week. Another major exercise is expected as early as next week involving the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group.