By Brian Padden
The South Korean government has quickly refuted US President Donald Trump’s call for Seoul to pay $1 billion for the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system. The Defense Ministry put out a statement Friday saying, “There is no change in South Korea and the United States’ position that our government provides the land and supporting facilities and the U.S. bears the cost of THAAD system’s deployment, operation and maintenance.”
The deployment of the THAAD anti-missile battery was agreed to last year by the administrations of then U.S. President Barack Obama and then South Korean President Park Geun-hye. Park was able to evade demands that she seek National Assembly approval for the deal by claiming no additional funding would be required for the THAAD deployment. But during an interview Thursday with Reuters in Washington, President Trump said he wants South Korea to pay for the system. A former U.S. State Department official estimated the cost of the system at $1.2 billion, but said the United States would not want to sell THAAD to Seoul. Trump also said in the Oval Office interview he wants to resolve the crisis peacefully, possibly through the use of new economic sanctions, but added, “There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea.”
China has told Washington it has warned Pyongyang of new Chinese sanctions if it conducts another nuclear test, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a Fox News interview Thursday. That would be a departure for Beijing, which has until now been unwilling to impose sanctions beyond those ordered by the United Nations. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman declined to confirm or deny Tillerson’s statement Friday, dismissing the question at a briefing as “hypothetical,” the Associated Press reported. South Korea is in the midst of a presidential election brought on by the impeachment of former President Park for her alleged involvement in a multimillion dollar corruption scandal.