South Korea defense ministry reaffirmed today its long-held stance of not purchasing an advanced missile-defense battery from the United States amid growing calls from its ruling party lawmakers to introduce it to better guard against North Korea’s missiles. According to [ismember]Yonhap news agency[/ismember][nonmember]Yonhap news agency[nonmember] in Seoul.

“The defense ministry has no plan to purchase a THAAD system,” ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told a regular briefing. “Basically, the system would do good to better defend the country from missiles from North Korea, but we will make a judgment by putting the national interest as our top priority.”

The U.S. considered a deployment of a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery on Korean soil, home to about 28,500 American troops, to better cope with the growing threats of Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile capabilities. The US move is seen as part of Washington’s move to deploy a missile defense ‘ring’ around the Pacific Ocean, countering what seems to be a growing intercontinental and medium-range ballistic missile threat from China and North Korea.

The US proposal has won some support from lawmakers from the ruling party but the ministry of defense objects to it. Korean officials, including defense minister Han Min-koo, have said THAAD deployment would be helpful for the security of the Korean Peninsula, they said Seoul is not considering buying the system. Officially, South Korea has deferred the missile defense decision “after the U.S. sets its position and asks for cooperation or any consultation.”

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[ismember]South Korea is planning to deploy its own missile defense system, known as the ‘Korea Air and Missile Defense’ (KAMD). The system will consist of a two-tier air defense system, and the retaliatory ‘Kill Chain’, counter-strike force, designed to launch air and missile attacks at North Korea, immediately after signs are detected of imminent nuclear or missile provocations by Pyongyang. “We will establish a Missile Defense system of our own against North Korea’s ballistic missiles by developing L-SAM and M-SAM surface-to-air missiles,” Kim stressed. According to Korean defense officials, KAMD is designed to address the North Korean threat but has no effect on regional balance of power.

The US THAAD deployment in South Korea would have consequences far beyond North Korea, and could  inflame tensions with China and Russia as they see the move as a threat to their security interests. The two countries have repeatedly expressed concern and opposition at such a possibility in recent months.

As an integral part of the U.S.-led air defense system for the region, the THAAD is designed to intercept short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in their terminal phase, at high altitudes and long range (beyond 200 km).

Seoul plans to maintain KAMD separate from the US missile defense system – although South Korea will be provided with some sensor feed from US early warning satellites. South Korea plans to deploy two types of interceptors with the system. The L-SAM providing the first line of defense, intercepting incoming missiles at their terminal (descending) phase, at ranges beyond 40 km. The targets that would have penetrated the first layer will be engaged with M-SAM, within the 40km range. Seoul considered several types of missiles for this task, including upgraded Patriot 2 (GEM+) and PAC-3. Other candidates could be the David’s Sling, positioned by Raytheon as a future ‘Patriot PAC4’ version, positioned as an alternative for the Patriot 3 MSE, which could also be considered for the L-SAM. The SM-2/3 interceptors deployed on Korean KD-X destroyers of the Korean Navy are considered ‘over qualified’ for the mission, as they can hit North Korean missiles at the ascend phase. But those vessels could be tasked with other missions and cannot maintain the full alert for missile-defense on an exclusive basis as a land-based system do.

Nevertheless, naval radars could be harnessed to assist the land based missile defense networks. Development of the missile is expected to commence in 2018; the Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) is expecting to begin production of the L-SAM system around 2023.[/ismember]