Date Set for US-Korea Summit: Will It Put THAAD Controversy to Sleep?

The date for the first presidential summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-In and U.S. President Donald Trump has been set. The two leaders will meet at the White House on June 29 and 30 to discuss topics such as the U.S.-Korean alliance, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and economic cooperation. Especially since this is the first meeting between the two leaders since their inaugurations, it is most important that a cooperative tone is created. The most prominent task at hand seems to be a gentle resolution of the recent conflict between the two countries regarding the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD).

One concern is our government’s attitude. Its position is that it will suspend further THAAD deployment until it is tested for potential environmental influence. Given the size of land promised to United States Forces Korea, which is 700,000 square meters, it will take at least a year for the potential environmental influence to be tested on the entire area. In this case, the agreement between the two countries to fully deploy THAAD by the end of the year will be compromised. Cheong Wa De (the South Korean equivalent of the White House) announced that “[they] are not saying the two launchers and other equipment that has already been deployed should be withdrawn. But those that have yet to be deployed will have to wait.”

Yet the White House disagrees. Given the continuing North Korean nuclear threat and the 28,500 U.S. troops currently stationed in Korea, it wants to fully deploy all promised THAAD units as soon as possible to ensure the troops’ safety. Therefore, it is not an uncommon opinion in the U.S. that the troops should be withdrawn if South Korea does not want THAAD deployed.

If THAAD is withdrawn, U.S. troops will be vulnerable to the North Korean threat, and, if there is no solution to ensure their safety, they may end up being withdrawn as well. In that case, there will be a severe problem with the U.S.-Korean alliance and the security of the Korean peninsula. Thus, there is a high possibility that delaying THAAD deployment with complicated processes will lead to more losses than gain. The government must bring out a strong card to satisfy the U.S. in the next two weeks before the presidential summit. That is the way to keeping our national security.

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