U.S. leaders are likely to have a new sense of “urgency” to deploy a THAAD missile defense battery in South Korea before that country holds an emergency election, which could produce a new president who opposes the plan, according to a Republican lawmaker.
“I think that there’s going to be an urgency by our military, which I support, to put the THAAD in South Korean before the South Korean election,” Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Washington Examiner. THAAD is the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye was removed from office Friday following impeachment over corruption charges, setting the stage for an election to replace her that will take place in 60 days. The next president will serve a full five-year term. Her removal, long in the making, comes days after the U.S. military began delivering the components of the missile defense battery to South Korea over the objections of the Chinese and Russian government.
Chinese government officials reiterated their opposition to the THAAD deployment as Chinese media expressed hope that Park’s successor might reverse course.
The Defense Department plans to proceed with the deployment, which was authorized in response to a startling number of North Korean nuclear weapons program tests and missile launches.
“Leaders change over time, that’s not new,” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, Pentagon spokesman, told reporters Friday. “This is something that is needed militarily. That agreement was reached and we remain committed to delivering on it.”
Russia blamed the United States for risking further destabilization in the region by beginning the deployment. “A new destructive factor is emerging in Asia Pacific, which may aggravate an already tense security situation in the region by undermining efforts to find solutions to the nuclear and other issues confronting the Korean Peninsula and triggering an arms race in the region, including with respect to missiles,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said Thursday.
But House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce promised to “maintain our strong alliance” with South Korea after a phone call with Ambassador Ahn Ho-Young. “Today, in the face of growing threats from the [North Korean] Kim Jong Un regime, it is more important than ever that we stand united,” Royce said Friday.