A top State Department official hopes to talk with China about the technical limitations of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in light of discussions to possibly put the air defense shield on the Korean Peninsula.

Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller told reporters March 22 that she hoped a consultation could be forthcoming. Despite reports to the contrary, no formal decision has been made to put THAAD in South Korea, Gottemoeller said at a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington.

Following a North Korean long range ballistic missile launch in February and a recent nuclear test, the United States and South Korea announced they decided to begin formal consultations exploring the feasibility of THAAD deploying to, and operating on, the Korean Peninsula at the earliest possible date.

China balked when the U.S. and South Korean governments announced they would enter discussions about a THAAD deployment, saying it could threaten Beijing’s regional strategic interests. U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) chief Navy Adm. Harry Harris disagreed with China’s claim, saying the anti-ballistic missile system poses no threat to China.

Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Senior Fellow and Missile Defense Project Director Tom Karako said March 22 that Gottemoeller’s willingness to meet with China should probably be seen as a signal to how serious the U.S. and South Korea are about the North Korean threat. Karako said the question is now more of how, and when, than if the U.S. should station a THAAD battery in South Korea. Karako called THAAD a defensive system.

Karako said since THAAD is a relocatable system, the U.S. and South Korea could deploy a battery on the Korean Peninsula in 2016 or, perhaps, the summer of 2016. He said THAAD batteries active and operational in the U.S. would be candidates for deployment on the Korean Peninsula.

Defense Department spokesman Cmdr. Bill Urban on March 22 said all details are currently being discussed. THAAD has four components are: truck-mounted launcher, interceptor, AN/TPY-2 X-band radar and fire control. THAAD is developed by Lockheed Martin [LMT].