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WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump criticized Seoul on Tuesday for failing to finance the U.S. deployment of a missile defense system on the Korean Peninsula.
"I said, so let me get this, we have a system that's very expensive and we shoot down rockets that are shot from North Korea to South Korea," Trump said to a crowd in Council Bluffs, Iowa. "Okay, so we're protecting South Korea, right? Why aren't they paying?"
Trump added that he asked a "certain general" about THAAD's price tag and was told that because South Korea is an ally the United States foots the bill.
"Then I said, all right, give me the bad news. Raytheon, give me the bad news. How much is it going to cost? " Trump said referring to the defense company that produces the radar for THAAD. The missile system itself is made by Lockheed Martin.
"Sir, $1 billion.' I said, 'whoa, whoa!' So we're putting in a system that we pay for and it's going to cost a billion in order to protect an immensely wealthy country [South Korea] that makes all of your television sets, right?'" Trump said.
In addition to protecting the region, the U.S. currently has approximately 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the Korean War, which halted in 1953 in an armistice that left the two Koreas technically still at war.
Trump's comments come on the heels of Lockheed Martin's 300th delivery of its THAAD system. The U.S. Army maintains seven THAAD batteries with forward deployments to both Guam and South Korea.
THAAD, one of most advanced missile systems on the planet, can target and blast incoming missiles right out of the sky from its truck-based launcher.
The interceptors fired from THAAD's launcher use kinetic energy to deliver "hit to kill" strikes to ballistic threats in lieu of warheads.
In 2017, the U.S. Army deployed two THAAD launchers to South Korea to counter North Korean missile threats.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un spoke out against the bilateral decision by Washington and Seoul to deploy THAAD on the Korean Peninsula.
After the announcement, the North test-fired a KN-11 submarine-launched ballistic missile in retaliation.
Under third-generation North Korean leader Kim, the reclusive state has conducted its most powerful nuclear test, launched its first-ever intercontinental ballistic missile and threatened to send missiles into the waters near Guam.
Since 2011, Kim has fired more than 85 missiles and conducted four nuclear weapons tests, more than his father, Kim Jong Il, and grandfather, Kim Il Sung, launched over a period of 27 years.