PENTAGON — Following the Sunday launch of a North Korean ballistic missile that propelled a satellite into low earth orbit, a Department of Defense spokesman confirmed the U.S. and South Korea are entering talks to deploy a new mobile ballistic missile defense (BMD) system to the peninsula.
“In response to the evolving threat posed by North Korea, the United States and the Republic of Korea have made a decision to start formal consultation to improve the alliance missile defense posture, specifically the viability of a Terminal High Altitude Aerial Defense system, operated by U.S. Forces Korea,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters on Monday.
Before Cook’s confirmation on Monday, follows an announcement from South Korean defense official Yoo Jeh-seung Sunday that South Korean officials were in talks with the U.S. to bring the THAAD system to augment the existing batteries of Lockheed Martin’s MIM–104 Patriot shorter range BMD batteries currently in-country.
“In response to the increasing North Korea’s threat, ROK and the U.S. will officially discuss deploying THAAD to U.S. forces in Korea to improve its missile defense posture,” he said.
The $800 million Lockheed Martin’s THAAD is an Army operated truck mounted system that works in concert with the A/N-TPY-2 X-band radar with a range of about 120 miles – the Patriot PAC-3 has a much shorter range of about 43 miles.
Cook did not elaborate to reporters on timelines for moving the batteries into Korea. For the last year, South Korean officials have pushed for the U.S. to move the system into the region as a ward against increasingly sophisticated North Korean ballistic missiles.
China has expressed concerns the inclusion of THAAD batteries on the peninsula as long as South Korea has floated the idea of installing the new batteries.
“No country shall undermine other countries’ security interests while pursuing its own,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Sunday.
“Moving ahead with the deployment of anti-missile systems in the region will further raise tensions on the Korean Peninsula. It will not help maintain regional peace and stability, nor will it lead to a proper settlement of the current situation.”
While the THAAD missiles themselves are relatively short range – the installation of the TPY-2 radar has been tested successfully in conjunction with the much longer range Standard Missile 3 BMD missile fired from the U.S. Navy’s Aegis guided missile destroyers and cruisers.
In a successful 2013 test, the Missile Defense Agency tested a THAAD and SM-3 fired from USS Decatur (DDG-73) coordinated — in part – by a TPY-2 radar in Hawaii.
While Cook explicitly avoided talking about the capabilities the U.S. sought to bring on board, U.S. 7th Fleet’s new BMD capable guided missile destroyers could benefit from the TPY-2 targeting information.