U.S. Antimissile System Goes Live in South Korea

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The announcement came as a controversy continued to rage over the cost of the Thaad system.

President Trump caused alarm in South Korea on Thursday when he told Reuters that he wanted Seoul to pay for the Thaad system, whose cost he estimated at $1 billion. South Korea has repeatedly told its people that the Americans had agreed to pay for the system and its operation and maintenance, with Seoul providing land and the support infrastructure.

On Sunday, the White House national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, called his South Korean counterpart, Kim Kwan-jin. Mr. Kim’s office later said that the two “reconfirmed what has already been agreed” about the system’s costs.

But the confusion was far from over.

General McMaster later told Fox News that the United States would stick to its word “until any renegotiation.”

Photo

A Thaad launcher in Seongju on Monday. Credit Yonhap/European Pressphoto Agency

“The last thing I would ever do is contradict the president of the United States,” he told Fox News. “What the president has asked us to do is to look across all of our alliances and to have appropriate burden-sharing, responsibility-sharing. We’re looking at that with our great ally South Korea; we’re looking at that with NATO.”

Such comments led many South Koreans to suspect that the Trump administration might attempt to renegotiate the Thaad deal or demand that South Korea increase its annual contribution, estimated at $820 million last year, to help pay for maintaining American troops in the country.

On Tuesday, South Korea’s main opposition party, the Democrats, called the government’s decision to accept the Thaad deployment “a total failure of diplomacy.”

The party’s presidential candidate, Moon Jae-in, is leading polls by a large margin ahead of the May 9 presidential election to choose the successor of the recently ousted President Park Geun-hye. Ms. Park agreed to the Thaad deployment before she was impeached for corruption in December. She was formally removed from office in March.

“At first, they said we needed to provide the land only. Now while our country was in the middle of an election campaign, they sneaked the Thaad in, and then demanded that we pay the cost, too,” Mr. Moon said during a campaign speech on Monday. “Does this make sense?”

Mr. Moon has called for an immediate suspension of the Thaad deployment. Mr. Moon, a liberal, had already pledged to review South Korea’s decision to accept the system if elected. He said South Korea was already paying a heavy price for the Thaad deployment, referring to a boycott of South Korean brands among angry Chinese.

The Thaad battery became operational as tension soared on the Korean Peninsula after a series of missile tests by the North and warnings from the Trump administration that military action was not off the table in dealing with the North.

Two B-1B American strategic bombers were deployed over the Korean Peninsula on Monday for a joint drill with South Korea’s air force, the South’s Defense Ministry said on Tuesday. North Korea condemned it as a “reckless” act that was pushing the peninsula “closer to the brink of nuclear war,” but Seoul said the exercise was meant to help deter North Korean provocations.

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Source: New York Times

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