Defense Secretary James Mattis assured lawmakers on Wednesday that he would address South Korea’s concerns over the THAAD missile defense system after the county’s president last week suspended additional deployments of the U.S. system.
“I think we’re going to find a way forward. As you know the president of South Korea is visiting here shortly and we're trying to resolve this. So, just so we have clarity on the way ahead,” Mattis told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee.
Mattis was responding to Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Biden makes his pitch as tax questions mount Emanuel defends handling of Chicago police shooting amid opposition to nomination Emanuel to take hot seat in Senate confirmation hearing MORE (R-Maine), who said she had recently received “a truly alarming briefing about North Korea” and was concerned about the decision by South Korea to be delay implementation of the THAAD system.
President Trump will host South Korea’s recently elected President Moon Jae-in at the White House June 29–30. The pair will discuss economic cooperation as well as efforts to curb "the growing North Korean nuclear and missile threats," the White House said.
The U.S. has already deployed two THAAD systems in South Korea, but Moon decided on June 7 to put further deployments on hold pending an environmental assessment.
The THAAD systems already in the country will be allowed to remain in place, but the installation of four launchers is delayed. The system has just two of its maximum six launchers to defend against possible incoming missiles.
The United States first deployed THAAD to South Korea in March to address growing concerns over North Korea’s quickly progressing missile programs.
Pyongyang has seen the THAAD deployments as a sign of escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea and has threatened attacks against the U.S., South Korea and Japan.
Moon, a liberal whose May 9 election ended nearly 10 years of conservative rule in South Korea, campaigned on a more moderate approach to Pyongyang and vowed to reassess the THAAD installation in his country.
“South Korea went through a bit of political turmoil. I believe there were campaign statements made that have impacted, but at the same time, we have not been asked to remove the system or its two launchers,” Mattis said.