No Such Thing as a Free Ride? ROK Missile Defence, Regional Missile Defence and OPCON Transfer | Daniel Pinkston
Daniel Pinkston is Crisis Group’s North East Asia Project Deputy Director.
In a previous post, we examined South Korean intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities as they relate to larger alliance dynamics and the issue of the Republic of Korea’s (ROK) military and wartime operational control (OPCON). South Korea also seeks to improve its missile defense (MD) capabilities. While ISR and MD are interrelated, the latter presents its own distinct set of regional and alliance-based issues.
"The U.S. has been keen to deploy more MD assets to the region given North Korea’s apparent determination to increase the quality, quantity and ranges of its missiles."
On 3 June, General Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of United States Forces Korea (USFK), recommended the deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) missiles to South Korea. These were the first public remarks by the U.S. military regarding such a deployment, following previous reports of U.S. defence officials stating that it was being considered. The THAAD system reportedly would serve as a more advanced missile-defense system to counter North Korean missile capabilities, which were most recently demonstrated by flight tests of the road-mobile Rodong missile, with a range of more than 1,000km.
While Washington has made no formal proposal to deploy THAAD to the ROK, the U.S. has begun an initial review and carried out site surveys of possible locations. The potential deployment of such a system highlights several ongoing issues that are both technical and highly political in nature. These include upgrading MD capabilities in response to an evolving North Korean threat; the potential expansion of the U.S.-led regional missile defence system, which is part of the U.S. rebalancing strategy in the region; and the ROK’s efforts to upgrade its own MD capabilities while simultaneously balancing its longstanding alliance with the U.S. and its deepening economic and political ties with China.
FULL ARTICLE (In Pursuit of Peace)
Photo: U.S. Missile Defense Agency