Admiral Harry Harris, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, suggested stationing the stealth destroyer USS Zumwalt at a South Korean naval base at either Jeju Island or Jinhae to deter North Korea, Ministry of Defense spokesman Moon Sang-gyun said at a press conference Monday.
The $4 billion multipurpose destroyer is armed with SM-6 ship-to-air missiles, Tomahawk long-range cruise missiles, and anti-submarine weapons.
Responding to North Korean provocations, South Korea has been calling on the U.S. to deploy strategic assets to the peninsula on a permanent basis. Pyongyang conducted two nuclear tests and around two dozen ballistic missile tests last year, and 2017 began with multiple threats of an impending intercontinental ballistic missile test.
"A deployment of strategic assets is something that we can certainly consider as a deterrence against North Korea's nuclear and military threats," Moon explained, "We haven't received any official offer in regard to the deployment of the Zumwalt, but if the U.S. officially makes such a suggestion, we will give serious consideration."
"If the U.S. officially makes such a suggestion, we will give serious consideration," he further said.
Some observers believe Harris' proposal should not be taken literally and should, instead, be treated as a sign that the U.S. is committed to defending South Korea.
Given some of the Zumwalt's issues, it is questionable whether the U.S. would actually deploy the Zumwalt to the Korean Peninsula.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis assured South Korea this weekend that the U.S. will stand by it against North Korea. "The United States stands by its commitments, and we stand with our allies, the South Korean people," he explained.
"We stand with our peace-loving Republic of Korea ally to maintain stability on the peninsula and in the region, Mattis added, "America's commitments to defending our allies and to upholding our extended deterrence guarantees remain ironclad. Any attack on the United States, or our allies, will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons would be met with a response that would be effective and overwhelming."
Mattis reportedly agreed to send strategic assets to the peninsula.
The U.S. is expected to send the Nimitz-class supercarrier USS Carl Vinson and its accompanying carrier strike group, as well as strategic bombers, to South Korea to take part in the Key Resolve military exercise.
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