Mattis, South Korean Counterpart Discuss Alliance, Missile Defense
South Korea has cleared the way for a land transfer critical to the planned placement of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile defense system, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said in a statement issued yesterday.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis spoke with South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo via telephone yesterday to discuss the future of the alliance, Davis said.
Mattis told Han that the United States remains steadfast in its commitment to the defense of South Korea, the captain said. “He further emphasized that any attack on the United States or its allies will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons will be met with a response that is effective and overwhelming,” Davis said.
The two leaders discussed the current regional security environment, including North Korea's Feb. 12 ballistic missile launch over the Sea of Japan, he said.
Mattis welcomed the official transfer of land on a golf course owned by the Lotte Group in the Seongju region, about 135 miles southeast of Seoul, to the South Korean government, the captain said. This land transfer will support the alliance’s decision to station a THAAD system in South Korea as soon as feasible, he said. This is a critical measure to defend the South Korean people and alliance forces against North Korean missile threats, Davis noted.
Defense officials said last year that, in response to the evolving threat posed by North Korea, the U.S. and South Korea began conducting formal consultations in Feb. 2016 regarding the feasibility of deploying a THAAD battery, and decided to move ahead in July 2016. The battery will be operated by U.S. Forces Korea to improve the missile defense posture of the alliance, officials said.
Mattis concluded the phone call by thanking Han for his efforts in strengthening the alliance, the captain said.