05/02/2017, 10.03
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The Thaad is operational. Testing relations between Washington and Seoul

South Korea approaches the May 9th presidential election. Favorite Moon Jae-in says Seoul has definitive word on the anti-missile system. The candidate promotes dialogue with North Korea and criticizes the conservative government for its aggressive policies. Chung Eui-yong: "We must choose what is best for our national interests." Joint military operations between Washington and Seoul continue. Trump: "I would be honored to meet Kim."

Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A US spokeswoman based in South Korea said today that the controversial Thaad anti-missile system is "operational and has the ability to intercept North Korean missiles and defend the Republic of Korea."

The High Altitude Area Defense Terminal, the deployment of which was brought forward on the back of pressure from the United States, has been the focus of strong controversy in recent days, and testing relations between Washington and Seoul.

South Korea is looking ahead to the presidential election on May 9th. The favorite, Liberal Party leader Moon Jae-in, says that the next Seoul administration will have the definitive word on the deployment of Thaad. Moon's office said that its deployment should be suspended immediately until then.

On April 27, US President Trump had said he wanted Seoul to pay for the system, which amounted to about one billion dollars. Kim Ki-jung, a consultant for Moon's foreign policy, replied that the suggestion was "an impossible option". Last April 30, Herbert McMaster, US National Security Adviser, attempted to appease the controversy, pointing out that the US would support the cost of operations.

In a book published in January, Moon claims that South Korea should learn to "say no to the Americans." The South Korean Democratic Party candidate promotes dialogue with North Korea and criticized the conservative government for its aggressive position, which is doing little to stop Pyongyang's development of weapons. Seoul said the decision to use Thaad was ultimately a military decision taken by the United States.

Many South Korean analysts now question the motivations behind the American president's assertions and the rush with which the US has wanted to deploy the anti-missile system. "Trump is using Thaad like a guinea pig to test his relationship with Seoul," said Kim Dong-yup, a professor at the Kyungnam University's Far Eastern Studies Institute in Seoul. "Trump seems to be testing South Korea's commitment to the Korea-US alliance. I wonder if he does it because he already thinks Moon will win the elections, "Kim added.


A second Moon adviser for foreign policy said that Trump's comments about Thaad's cost pose fundamental questions as to where the alliance could be directed. "This is a new dimension," said Chung Eui-yong, former South Korean ambassador to Geneva, who leads a team of consultants. "Our position is that we should review the Thaad even if we do not for pay it, but Trump's remarks have changed the fundamental aspect of this problem," Chung said. "We must choose what is best for our national interests."

Despite the political controversy over the last few days, joint military exercises continue between Washington and Seoul. Tensions in the Korean peninsula have increased, with repeated threats from North Korea and the presence of a group of US warships and a nuclear submarine. Two US bombers participated yesterday in an exercise with South Korea's aerial force in what the United States has called a routine operation.

The flight of the two bombers took place when US President Donald Trump said he was open to meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in appropriate circumstances, although Pyongyang said it wanted to continue with his nuclear tests. Despite this, Trump said he would be "honored" to meet the young Northern dictator.

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