A meeting of top US military officials with Seoul’s National Security Council chief has fanned speculations that the two sides are attempting to narrow differences on the Thaad missile defense system.
On Monday, US Missile Defense Agency chief Vice Adm. James Syring and chief of US Forces Korea and Combined Forces Command Gen. Vincent Brooks met with NSC chief Chung Eui-yong.
Although the presidential office described the visit as a “courtesy call,” the timing of the visit has prompted speculations that the two US officers will focus on technological aspects of the system.
President Moon Jae-in has highlighted the lack of transparency in processes related to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system. He and the ruling Democratic Party of Korea have also raised concerns about the efficacy of Thaad.
Before the presidential election, Moon questioned the efficacy of Thaad as defense against North Korean missile and nuclear threats, arguing that its placement in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, would leave Seoul and surrounding regions exposed.
The visit by the US officers also comes on the heels of Chung’s visit to the US, where he is said to have discussed issues regarding the summit between Moon and US President Donald Trump scheduled for later this month.
On the trip, Chung had stated that related matters need more transparency and that a stringent environmental study will be conducted, which may delay the deployment of Thaad.
Chung also referred to the controversy over a Ministry of National Defense report to the presidential office as “incomprehensible.”
The Defense Ministry has been accused of deliberately omitting information about the presence of four Thaad launchers in South Korea, in addition to the two already deployed in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, when briefing the presidential office.
The controversy also continued at the National Assembly, with National Assembly Speaker Rep. Chung Sye-kyun in effect opposing the call for a parliamentary hearing into the matter.
Speaking to reporters Monday, Chung warned against the hearing, which is being demanded by the Democratic Party of Korea’s Thaad committee, saying that in matters of national security and international relations, revealing every detail is not the right solution.
“(Resolving the issue) is not a matter that can be resolved with a parliamentary hearing,” the National Assembly speaker said, stressing that he has not opposed the Thaad deployment nor agreed to hold a parliamentary hearing.
However, Rep. Chung did acknowledge the lack of transparency in the process of bringing Thaad launchers into the country and said that the matter needs to be clarified. ___
This article is written by Choi He-Suk from The Korea Herald, Seoul / Asia News Network and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.