Tuesday, August 16, 2016

U.S. Army chief to visit S. Korea amid THAAD tensions

The U.S. Army chief of staff plans to visit South Korea to receive updates on the plan to deploy the U.S. THAAD missile defense system to the Asian ally, the Army said Monday.

South Korea will be the second leg of Gen. Mark Milley's Aug. 15-23 trip, which will also take him to China, Japan and Hawaii, the Army said in a statement without providing the exact dates for each stop.

In South Korea, Milley will visit U.S. Army troops and meet with Korean military leaders, the statement said.

"While there, he will receive an updates on brigade deployments, the combined U.S. and ROK 2nd Infantry Division, the relocation of U.S. Army units to Camp Humphreys, and plans to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense to protect the Republic of Korea from North Korean ballistic missile threats," the statement said.

His trip comes as China has been strongly protesting the decision by Seoul and Washington to place a THAAD battery in South Korea to better defend against growing missile threats from North Korea.

Beijing has claimed that THAAD, especially its powerful "X-band" radar, can be used against it, despite repeated assurances from the U.S. and the South that the system is purely defensive and designed only to cope with North Korean threats.

THAAD is also expected to be a top topic for Milley's visit to China.

"In China, Milley will meet with the senior leadership of the People's Liberation Army to discuss a range of bilateral, regional, and global issues and identify ways to deepen cooperation in areas of mutual interest, while also constructively managing differences," the Army statement said.

While in China, Milley also plans to visit the People's Liberation Army's Academy of Military Science, a center for the development and teaching of doctrine, where he will exchange views with faculty and students, the statement said.

After South Korea, Milley will then visit Japan, where he will reaffirm the importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance as the cornerstone of peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region and discuss opportunities for closer collaboration between the U.S. Army and Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces, the statement said.

Milley will end his visit in Hawaii, where he will meet with U.S. Pacific Command leaders and visit soldiers from the 8th Theater Sustainment Command and the 25th Infantry Division, it said.

The trip marks Milley's third visit to the region since becoming the Army chief of staff in August 2015. He is visiting China and Japan for the first time as the chief and is making his second visit to South Korea. (Yonhap)

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