The only reason for the United States and South Korea to consider deploying the THAAD missile defense system is because of North Korean threats, and the system won't be necessary if the communist nation is denuclearized, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday.
"We have made it very clear that we are not hungry or anxious to deploy THAAD," Kerry said during a joint news conference after talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
"The only reason for THAAD being in consultation ... is because of the provocative actions of North Korea, which has publicly announced it is focused on the United States and which is developing weapons which have the ability to attack the United States," he said.
Kerry also said, "If we can get to denuclearization, there is no need to deploy THAAD."
"We've stated publicly, openly and clearly what the conditions are for not having to consider its deployment. And that would be the denuclearization. That's all. Not even if North Korea fundamentally changed, but if it is denuclearized, then this particular threat goes away," he said.
Kerry also stressed the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) is a purely defensive mechanism. The only way to not only prevent THAAD from being deployed but also see less American troops on the Korean Peninsula is to resolve the nuclear issue and make peace on the peninsula, he said.
These remarks appear to underscore the point that THAAD is not aimed at China. But they can also be seen as leaving open the possibility of the U.S. reversing its decision on THAAD in an effort to encourage China to play greater roles in reining in Pyongyang.
Shortly after the North's missile launch on Feb. 7, South Korea and the U.S. jointly announced they would begin official discussions on the possible placement of the U.S.' THAAD missile defense system in South Korea.
That ended more than a year of Seoul's soul-searching over how to deal with the issue amid Washington's desire to deploy the system and China's intense opposition to it. The North's twin provocations of its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 and then a missile test a month later gave Seoul justification for the decision.
China has protested the decision as it has long claimed THAAD can be used against it, despite repeated assurances from Washington that the system is aimed only at deterring North Korean threats.