S. Korea to get US anti-missile system 'as soon as possible'

Official cites pace of N. Korea's missile tests as reason for haste

WASHINGTON • The United States plans to speed up deployment of the Thaad anti-missile system to South Korea, given the pace of North Korea's missile tests, and it will be stationed there "as soon as possible", the top US diplomat for East Asia has said.

Mr Daniel Russel, assistant secretary of state for East Asia, also told a congressional hearing on Tuesday that the US was in discussions with international partners, including the European Union, to deny North Korea access to the global banking infrastructure after its recent nu- clear and missile tests.

He told the Asia-Pacific Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee the exact timing of the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) system was a matter for the Pentagon.

But he added: "Given the accelerating pace of North Korea's missile tests, we intend to deploy on an accelerated basis - I would say as soon as possible."

Asked if the deployment was a "done deal", he replied: "Yes, I do."

GAINING URGENCY

Given the accelerating pace of North Korea's missile tests, we intend to deploy on an accelerated basis - I would say as soon as possible.

MR DANIEL RUSSEL, US assistant secretary of state for East Asia, on deploying Thaad.

He told Reuters last week that the Thaad deployment was not negotiable as part of efforts to agree on new United Nations (UN) sanctions on North Korea after its fifth nu- clear test on Sept 9.

China, whose full backing is widely seen as crucial for sanctions on North Korea to be effective, is strongly opposed to the Thaad deployment and some experts have argued it should be part of talks on new UN measures.

Mr Russel said China shared concerns about North Korea's nuclear programme and there had been a vast improvement in cooperation on sanctions, even though there was "an awful lot more" Beijing needed to do to tighten them.

He said there had been "a very constructive and honest candid set of ongoing conversations" with China on new UN sanctions.

Asked if consideration was being given to restricting North Korea's access to banking transaction services, such as the Swift system, Mr Russel replied: "We are in discussions with our partners, including the EU, about tightening the application of sanctions and pressure, including and particularly to deny North Korea access to the international banking infrastructure."

He said the US and its allies Japan and South Korea had been working to cut off North Korean revenue streams from coal and overseas workers and were considering further joint action.

The US Justice Department has filed criminal charges against a Chinese executive, accusing her, the company she owns and several of her colleagues of violating American sanctions meant to choke off funding to North Korean companies that help Pyongyang develop nuclear weapons.

The US Treasury said it was sanctioning Dandong Hongxiang Industrial Development Co and four of its executives, including the firm's founder Ma Xiaohong, under US regulations targeting proliferators of weapons of mass destruction.

It accused the company of acting on behalf of North Korea's Korea Kwangson Banking Corp, which has been under US and UN sanctions for supporting proliferation of such weapons.

Asked about the move, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing was committed to upholding UN resolutions against North Korea, but was opposed to any country using its own laws to carry out "long-arm jurisdiction".

"We have already communicated this position to the US side," he told a briefing on Tuesday, without elaborating.

REUTERS, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2016, with the headline 'S. Korea to get US anti-missile system 'as soon as possible''. Print Edition | Subscribe