S.Korean defence chief to visit US for talks with Mattis

Mr Song Young Moo's meeting this week with his American counterpart James Mattis will be their first as defence chiefs.
Mr Song Young Moo's meeting this week with his American counterpart James Mattis will be their first as defence chiefs.

SEOUL •South Korean Defence Minister Song Young Moo is travelling to Washington this week for talks with his American counterpart James Mattis.

It will be their first meeting as defence chiefs. They will discuss countermeasures against the growing nuclear and missile threats from the North, reported Yonhap news agency.

Their agenda could include the transfer of wartime operational control of South Korean troops from Washington to Seoul and the deployment of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) missile interception system, which is opposed by China.

After the North's intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests, South Korea President Moon Jae In reversed his decision to suspend the deployment of Thaad. He ordered the additional deployment of four more Thaad launchers, in addition to the two deployed in April.

Seoul also wants to build more powerful ballistic missiles, a move that would require US approval under the terms of a bilateral treaty.

The Korea Times reported yesterday that the talks could include plans for South Korea to build its own nuclear-powered submarines.

Mr Moon has said during the presidential campaign: "We need nuclear submarines in this era."

When Mr Moon held a phone conversation with his counterpart, President Donald Trump, earlier this month to discuss the mounting military tensions on the Korean peninsula, he also broadly mentioned the need for the nation to have these nuclear-powered submarines.

The South is also working to build up its monitoring and striking abilities, including with radar and remote-controlled reconnaissance planes to track and neutralise North Korean missiles in pre-emptive attacks.

South Korea's conservative opposition group, the Liberty Korea Party, issued a statement favouring the deployment of American tactical nuclear weapons in the country, reported Yonhap.

"Peace will come when we achieve a balance of power, not when we are begging for it," the party's leader Hong Joon Pyo was quoted as saying.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2017, with the headline 'S.Korean defence chief to visit US for talks with Mattis'. Print Edition | Subscribe