After President Donald Trump said South Korea should pay for a high-tech U.S. missile defense system, officials in Seoul say that's not possible.
In an interview on April 27, Trump suggested that South Korea should pay up to $1 billion for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, a missile defense system being deployed in South Korea by the U.S.
"I informed South Korea it would be appropriate if they paid," Trump told Reuters. "It's a billion-dollar system. It's phenomenal, shoots missiles right out of the sky."
South Korean officials say their deal with the U.S. on THAAD has not changed. South Korea provides the land and infrastructure necessary for the missile defense system while the U.S. maintains ownership and operations.
"There is no change to this basic position," South Korea's Defense Ministry wrote in a statement, according to the Daily Mail.
Kim Ki-jung, a top foreign policy adviser to South Korean presidential front-runner Moon Jae-in, says it would be impossible for South Korea to purchase the missile system.
"Even if we purchase THAAD, its main operation would be in the hands of the United States," Kim told Reuters. "So purchasing it would be an impossible option."
Moon, who is leading by a wide margin in the election to replace impeached South Korean former President Park Geun-hye, said he believes the new government should be given the chance to decide whether or not South Korea will deploy THAAD at all.
"I'll decide after sufficient public consensus and parliamentary approval," he said in a television appearance ahead of the upcoming election, Reuters reports.
Top U.S. officials have said THAAD will by up and operational in South Korea within days.
A research opinion poll shows ambivalence among South Koreans on the deployment of THAAD, as only 51 percent of the population is in favor of the missile defense system, according to GMA News Online.
A former U.S. State Department Official told Reuters, under the condition of anonymity, that the U.S. government would not want to sell the missile defense system, despite Trump's statements.
"We want to retain THAAD in our arsenal," he said, "consistent with all other U.S. weapons systems deployed on the Korean peninsula. We own them. We retain them. We have the right to redeploy them."
The U.S. and South Korea have maintained a standing security alliance since the Korean War in the 1950s, with more than 28,000 American troops currently stationed in the country.