The suspension, announced Wednesday by the office of liberal South Korean President Moon Jae-In, was decried in a statement released by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA). Referencing North Korea’s leader, Royce wrote, "The THAAD defensive missile system is critical to protecting South Koreans from Kim Jong-un’s arsenal."
"I hope any environmental concerns related to the full deployment of THAAD will be dispelled with a quick and thorough review," he wrote. "We need to use every tool at our disposal — including additional sanctions — to address the Kim regime’s threats."
One of Moon’s officials clarified that the two launchers and other equipment already in place would not be removed, but the four most recently added launchers would be put on hold, possibly for more than a year.
Moon has ordered a probe into the four launchers and has accused the South Korean Defense Ministry of purposely misleading the government and the public about their installation.
Just hours before Royce released his statement, and soon after US Missile Defense Agency head Vice Admiral James Syring told the House Armed Services Committee that there is "great concern" over Pyongyang’s missile capabilities, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) launched several missiles, the country’s fourth test in as many weeks, off the country’s east coast near Wonsan, Gangwon Province. The South Korean military reported that the short-range, surface-to-ship cruise missiles traveled about 200 kilometers.
Despite the Pentagon upgrading its assessment of Washington’s ability to defend against aggression from the North, and a successful test of the US’ missile interceptor aimed at neutralizing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), Syring said the US is in the "range" for a DPRK missile strike.
Although the installation of THAAD was rushed during South Korean elections, seemingly to preempt Moon’s likely veto of the move, its suspension may also be an olive branch to China, which has vociferously protested the system, reportedly suspecting that its "X-band" radar can be used to spy on their military activity. Beijing even conducted live fire drills and weapons tests in response to the anti-missile system’s deployment.
Washington has denied Beijing’s concerns, stressing that the system’s sole purpose is to protect Seoul from Pyongyang.