SEOUL, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) -- Defense chiefs of South Korea and the United States on Tuesday reaffirmed the bilateral agreement to deploy the U.S. missile shield, called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), in South Korean soil despite strong oppositions at home and abroad.
Seoul's defense ministry said in a press release that South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo held the first telephone talks earlier in the morning with his U.S. counterpart James Mattis who became the first secretary of defense under the Trump administration.
During the dialogue, they shared security situations on the Korean Peninsula, agreeing to strengthen their defense capability against nuclear and missile threats from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and develop the bilateral alliance under severe security environment.
The defense chiefs expressed serious concerns about top DPRK leader Kim Jong Un's New Year's Day address that said Pyongyang had entered a final stage in preparations to test-launch the long-range ballistic rocket.
Under the expected DPRK rocket test-launch, Han and Mattis agreed to push the THAAD installation as scheduled and beef up close cooperation in DPRK policy between defense authorities.
They agreed to maintain a complete defense readiness through the U.S. extended deterrence and the firm U.S.-South Korea combined forces given the possibility for the DPRK to conduct strategic and tactical provocations.
Seoul and Washington abruptly announced the agreement in July last year to deploy one THAAD battery in South Korea's southeastern region by the end of this year.
It caused strong oppositions from China and Russia as the THAAD's X-band radar can peer into territories of the two nations. The U.S. anti-missile shield is composed of the super microwave-emitting radar, six mobile launchers, 48 interceptors and the fire control unit.
The THAAD deployment in South Korea will destabilize the regional strategic balance and undermine China's strategic interests as well as the strategic mutual trust between China-U.S. and China-ROK, a spokesman of China's Defense Ministry has said.
The radar also caused a barrage of criticism from residents in Seongju county, where the THAAD is scheduled to be installed, and its nearby Gimcheon city as it is detrimental to environment and human body.
The absense of open discussions stoked parliamentary and public objections. Some of conservative voters believe that the THAAD is a cure-all to protect South Korea from the DPRK's nuclear threats, but others raise doubts over its intercepting capability and worry about escalated tensions and arms race in the region.
The THAAD is designed to shoot down incoming missiles at an altitude of 40-150 km, but most of DPRK missiles targeting South Korea fly at an altitude of less than 40 km.
The U.S. missile shield is also incapable of protecting Seoul and its suburban metropolitan area, which has more than half of the country's 50 million population.
The two defense heads are expected to discuss the THAAD deployment during their upcoming talks in Seoul later this week. The Seoul ministry said Mattis will make his two-day visit to South Korea from Thursday to Friday.
Han and Mattis were originally scheduled to hold the defense ministers' talks on Thursday, but it was delayed to Friday as the Pentagon head will pay a courtesy call on Thursday to South Korean Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who is serving as acting president, and top presidential security advisor Kim Kwan-jin.
Mattis' visit to South Korea will become his first overseas trip since the Trump administration was launched on Jan. 20. It would mark the first time for the Pentagon head to pick South Korea as the first overseas destination.
The upcoming face-to-face dialogue is forecast to be focused on the THAAD deployment and the DPRK's nuclear threats. Pyongyang conducted its fourth and fifth nuclear tests in January and September last year respectively.
The South Korean ministry said the defense chiefs will make a joint assessment on and discuss countermeasures against the DPRK's nuclear and missile threats, while exchanging views on how to strengthen the bilateral alliance.
The commander of U.S. forces in South Korea expected the THAAD deployment as early as in July this year, but it could be hard to happen given the domestic political schedule.
South Korea's constitutional court is deliberating on the motion to impeach President Park Geun-hye, which was passed on Dec. 9 in the parliament by an overwhelming majority. The court is widely forecast to rule on it as late as the middle of March.
If the court holds the motion, President Park will be permanently removed from office and a presidential election must be held within 60 days.
Major presidential hopefuls in the opposition camp have argued for the cancellation or re-negotiations on the U.S. missile defense system deployment in their territory. Following the presidential scandal, the possibility gets lower for the conservative candidate to win the presidency.
Meanwhile, the U.S. defense chief could take issue with shortage in South Korea's financial contribution to U.S. forces stationed here.
During the 2016 campaign, U.S. President Donald Trump said South Korea should pay more for over 28,000 U.S. troops in its soil, the legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.