After years of discussions, the US and South Korean governments agreed to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system on the Korean peninsula, the Pentagon announced on July 7. A joint working group will soon make a recommendation to the US and South Korean ministers on what it sees as the optimal deployment site, according to the release. The parties formally agreed in February to explore the viability of deploying the defensive system at the earliest possible date in response to North Korea’s continued development and testing of ballistic missiles. In May, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance Frank Rose said China protested the proposed deployment of the THAAD system to South Korea because it would impact its strategic nuclear deterrent. But, he said, the reasoning is flawed because the THAAD system’s single-stage interceptors would not have the range or capability to intercept Chinese ICBMs headed to the United States and its radar would not enhance the US’ capability in the region. The Pentagon asserted the THAAD system will be focused solely on North Korean nuclear and missile threats when it is deployed to the Korean peninsula, and “would not be directed towards any third party nations” in the release.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.