Seoul rejects Trump’s demand it pay for missile system
Seoul on Friday brushed aside US President Donald Trump’s suggestion it should pay for a $1 billion missile system the two allies are installing in South Korea against the North.
“I informed South Korea it would be appropriate if they paid. It’s a billion-dollar system,” Trump told Reuters on Friday. “It’s phenomenal, shoots missiles right out of the sky.”
The first parts of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system have already been delivered to a former golf course in the South – infuriating China – at a time of heightened tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, AFP reported.
Top US officials have said THAAD will be operational “within days”.
The two countries have been in a security alliance since the 1950-53 Korean War, and more than 28,000 US troops are stationed in the South.
Seoul retorted that under the Status of Forces Agreement that governs the US military presence in the country, the South would provide the THAAD site and infrastructure while the US would pay to deploy and operate it.
“There is no change to this basic position,” South Korea’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The row comes with tensions high on the Korean Peninsula following a series of missile launches by the North and warnings from the Trump administration that military action was an “option on the table”.
Trump said there was “a chance” of “a major, major conflict” with the North – which would put the South, whose capital is within range of Pyongyang’s artillery, at risk of horrific casualties.
The White House also wants China to do more to rein in the North, with Trump saying he believed leader Xi Jinping was “trying very hard”.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters that the two presidents had been “in constant touch with each other,” which was “good for the two countries and also for the whole world”.
But Beijing has been infuriated by the THAAD deployment, which it fears weakens its own ballistic capabilities and says upsets the regional security balance.
South Koreans are ambivalent over its deployment, with only 51.8 percent in favor in a Korea Research opinion poll last month.
The South’s economy has already been hit hard by a series of measures imposed by Beijing as apparent retaliation to the deployment.