High Cost of THAAD Deployment in South Korea


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The modern age has witnessed an increase in the interest of nuclear power development because of the potential for defense. Among the one of the country that has initiated the project to develop nuclear weapons, including missiles is North Korea, an action viewed as being a threat to the security of the region and the world in general. Since the beginning of the 21st century, it has been clear that the North Korean government has been committed to develop workable nuclear weapon programs, a move that has been strongly countered in the region and globally. In 2009, there was an open declaration by the government of having had launched a comparatively simple nuclear weapon. The program has been considered a threat to countries in the region, including South Korea, China, and Japan as well as those around the world, including the United States. The United States is still viewed as the nation with the power to defend the region and the world from the threat of missile developed in North Korea (Fox and Orman 259). The international community has shown interest in developing workable means of stopping North Korea from further development of the nuclear weapons.

Towards the end of countering the efforts by North Korea to develop further nuclear program, the United States government proposed the development of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD). The proposed program would be based in South Korea as a strategic location for effective efforts against the efforts of North Korea (Fox and Orman 259). The U.S. government has viewed the missile defense system as the most effective solution to the North Korea issue of nuclear missile tests. From the perspective of international security, the US government views the THAAD as having the potential to improve the defense capability of South Korea against the obvious threat posed by the North Korean advanced missile capabilities. Evidently, the US government does not consider other potential efforts to counter the problem such as diplomatic negotiations and trade sanctions against North Korea as being functional in addressing the quandary. Hence, the THAAD has remained a controversial issue in the region and involving the US, which has remained at the center of the issue (Klingner 23). Among the primary opponents of the efforts by the United States in the region is China, which proposes consideration of other measures to counter the North Korea issue.

Even amid the debate, North Korea continues to expand its nuclear capability, currently with the potential to launch a destructive attack in the region and also in the United States and its allies. The North Korean government is making it very clear that it has no intentions of abandoning the nuclear program and goes ahead to declare that the Six-Party Talks are “null and void” (Klingner 23). Clearly, North Korea has all the intentions, not only to develop the program but also to use the missile to perpetrate large-scale attacks. It is from such a point of view that Klingner points to a need for the United States and the allies to come up with an effective defense program aimed at deterring and defending against the escalating threat. Washington, Tokyo, and Seoul are in need of a system that will work, and the one proposed takes the form of “a comprehensive, interoperable, and multilayered ballistic missile defense (BMD) system” (23). Such a system with complementary capacity has the potential to offer an effective defense against the missile attack. However, China and even South Korea are opposed to the planned deployment of the THAAD by the US.

Historical Efforts toward Korean Peninsula

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Korea is a country in East Asia which since 1948 has been divided into the North (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) and South Korea (the Republic of Korea). Generally, the Korean Peninsula is considered the “storm center” in the region. The region is surrounded by the greatest nations in Asia, China, Russia, and Japan. Thus, these nations have remained active players in the history of the Korean Peninsula. The history of the Korean Peninsula has been shaped by various conflicts from within and from the external interventions by the neighboring powers and the United States. Evidence from research has revealed a history of crisis in the region, with the focus in the threat posed by North Korea against South Korea and the region in general. The Soviets and Americans have had historical contact with the region, making concerted efforts to have their interests supported. The North Korean side has been on the receiving end with efforts to put an end to the Kim Family Regime (Spangler 83). It is from the point of view that the North Korea government consolidated resources to protect itself from the external interests.

It is worth noting that currently North Korea is succeeding in consolidating its power through blending brutal actions and cautious economic reforms to allow for its potential to defend itself from the increased pressure from the outside and to gain more power in the region, especially over South Korea and other neighboring powers. On the other hand, South Korea has not been able to move past the effects of the war efficiently, and has remained weaker than North Korea regarding economic and military capabilities. Unlike North Korea, the South has suffered from economic challenges, indicating its problems in competing with the economic and military giant, North Korea (Spangler 84). Since the time of the war, the two states have not been the same economically and politically with the differences manifesting more in the military capabilities of North Korea as opposed to the South. Although South Korea has made major strides towards economic development, it has remained inferior compared to North Korea, offering an explanation for the continued threat the country experience from their neighbor North Korea.

The two countries have experienced a period of political tension, with the chances to uniting becoming slimmer. During the times of the South Korean political tensions, there have been efforts made by North Korea to engage in discussions to reunite, but the efforts have never borne fruit because of the promotion of individual interests in the process. The two countries appeared to be moving in different directions since the time of the war and their separation, with North Korea pursuing more concerted development efforts (Spangler 83). North Korea looked to the West to garner greater technological capacity. However, the trade relationship between North Korea and the Western states and the neighbors did not go well because of the oil crisis and defective planning. Particularly, the country was unable to pay the creditors from the West and Japan. The problems experienced by North Korea hindered its advantage in forming effective relationships with the West and nations in the region, leaving the advantage to South Korea. The reality would follow a period in which North Korea distanced itself from most of its potential trade partners.

While North Korea has gained the potential for survival from the Soviet Union and China, it managed to move forward without major input from the outside countries, particularly following the collapsing of the Soviet Union (Xiao 83). China’s interest in the region appeared to look more into the South Korea as opposed to the North, escalating the North Korea’s separationist strategies.  In the mid-1990s, North Korea was more isolated regarding political, diplomatic, as well as economic aspects.  The relationship between North Korea and Japan has almost been non-existent until the recent past. The government spent more of the time seeking to limit contact between Seoul and Tokyo. In addition, the relationship between North Korea and the United States has been characterized by almost ongoing mistrust and confrontation. The United States has always considered North Korea a global militant, particularly for the actions of the country against South Korea and the United States. In turn, North Korea views the United States as a global imperialist force, the successor of imperialism in Japan.

The relationship between North Korea and the other nations in the world has been further negatively affected by the efforts initiated by the country to defend itself from any threat that might come based on its persistence to develop the nuclear capabilities. The modern era has seen South Korea progress economically compared to North Korea. Strong foreign investment is one of the indicators of success in South Korea, explaining its strategic placement in the efforts to counter the North Korea military threat. The country has also maintained strategic relationships with the US, China, Japan, and other major countries in the region and the world. The relationships have not worked well with its main neighbor, North Korea. The recent development in the strategic relationship of South Korea has led to the increasing chasm between the two neighbors (Spangler 85). The strength of North Korea has remained based on the country’s wealth in minerals and the military capability. Any efforts made by the two states to reunite have been hampered by the continued commitment of North Korea to develop further its military capability and the potential for nuclear programs that are evidently underway in the wake of the 21st century. During the time when efforts were underway to reunite the two nations, it was revealed that North Korea had clandestine efforts to develop nuclear weapons. The discovery renewed the crisis in the region, bringing the area closer to another major war, since the Korean War.

The efforts to bring sanity to the region have been suggested, but they all point to development of programs to counter the nuclear capability of North Korea. Although there have been amicable interventions in the past such as the 1994 “Agreed Framework” passed by the United States and North Korea, the agreed steps were not taken, which has brought the crisis to its present form. There have also been efforts to establish trade relationships between the country and the United States and also with Japan in the effort to stop the production of nuclear weapons by North Korea. However, the efforts came to a halt during President Bush administration, when the US government blamed North Korea for supplying weapons technology and missiles to its enemies. The country was later categorized as one of the “Axis of Evil” states being among those that had efforts underway to develop nuclear weapons. The recent past has seen the country openly declaring its programs are in place for the development of nuclear weapons, evidence of going back to the Agreed Framework as well as the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (Spangler 83). The crisis has culminated in the United States’ deliberation to develop the THAAD.

Rationale of THAAD Deployment

The United States has remained incredulous of the actual intentions of the North Korea government in openly acknowledging the development of the nuclear missiles (Rozman 198). There are questions about the potential of the efforts being developed towards the end of achieving United States and South Korean concessions. In fact, efforts have been underway, including the input from the United States, South Korea, China, Russia and Japan to put pressure on North Korea to stop production of the nuclear missiles and agree to the disarmament procedures (Kotch 184). However, there is still a lack of agreement on the most effective method of forcing North Korea to agree to the terms of disarmament. North Korea has in the recent past indicated its readiness to negotiate with the US, but the move is opposed in the region, especially by Japan which cites the problem being a threat to the security and stability of the region. There were also agreements with the United States to work with the United Nations towards reaching a diplomatic solution to the problem.

Any efforts to come to an agreement with the countries in the region have failed as North Korea does not appear prepared to stop the nuclear program. Economic ramifications following such moves as sanctions have not appeared to be effective in persuading the country to agree to disarmament initiatives. In fact, it becomes evident that North Korea is prepared for economic stagnation and zeal to leave global pariah status than to bring to an end the nuclear program. The United States appear to have realized the grimness of the diplomatic efforts and the economic sanctions in achieving the goal of disarming North Korea and have sought the more defensive move. The THAAD is proposed to be deployed in South Korea as a move to counter the efforts in North Korea with the objective of countering its intentions in developing the nuclear programs (Grzelczyk 8). The United States appears to be more prepared to come up with countermeasures rather than waiting to reveal what the actual plans are for the North Korea.

A missile launch by North Korea would be devastating not only to the region but also to the world at large, indicating the need for effective steps to negate such an occurrence. For the United States, a defense against such a launch is critical from the perspective of developing defense of its national security (Spain 49). The United States is currently seeking the possibility of bringing to fruition the THAAD program as a means of uniting the efforts within the peninsula to counter the threat posed by North Korea (Klingner 23). The program has been proposed as an upper-tier interceptor that would be able to provide greater defense potential, not only to the United States but also to the entire region. However, regardless of the potential of the program, there remains the issue of the deployment challenges and associated skepticism with which the program is viewed (Fox and Orman 261). For the program to be deployed and work effectively, it is critical that all the players reach a consensus.

While the United States is the implementer of the program, it is important to note that it will be based in South Korea. Hence, it is critical that the South Korean government is in agreement within the United States on the terms of the deployment of the program. Unfortunately, the United States is yet to convince the South Korean government to agree to the deployment of the program. President Park Geun-Hye has maintained a “strategic ambiguity” policy in relation to the program (Klingner 22). While the program could have the potential for offering the necessary defense against the threat of North Korea, there is still evidence of skepticism from the South Korean government, primarily as a function of the pressure from the Chinese government (Moon 75). The United States has to convince all the players that the deployment of THAAD is of great fundamental to the region’s security and stability and does not go against the interests of any state, including China.

The ongoing provocative activities by North Korea provide the rationale for a more concerted program to counter it. The potential for the country to launch multiple missiles is a confirmation of the need for the deployment of such a program as THAAD, which is a strategic position to counter such an attack (Grzelczyk 9). Evidently, the actions of North Korea cannot be effectively countered by diplomatic efforts or economic sanctions as China appears to believe. By proposing the deployment of the THAAD, it is obvious that the United States does not have hopes in the effectiveness of any other efforts that would pressurize North Korea to comply. Evidently, regardless of the efforts to counter the move by the United States, it remains committed to seeing the program come to life amid the increasing efforts by North Korea to arm itself. For instance, while China and Russia reacted to the declaration of nuclear capability by North Korea (Bin 127), they are not in support of the THAAD deployment.

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