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White House Official Confirms Discussions on S. Korean Missile Defense

FILE - A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful test in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency.

A White House official has confirmed to VOA that President Donald Trump, the secretary of state and the secretary of defense discussed South Korea's suspension of deployment of a U.S. anti-ballistic-missile defense system in South Korea.

South Korea announced Wednesday that it would delay the installation of the remaining components of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system while it was assessing the system's environmental impact.

The official said U.S. officials had been "in close contact with our ally South Korea" on the matter. The official added that the South Korean government had assured the U.S. that it would not revert from its previous commitments regarding the missile defense system, and that the United States had given South Korea the same assurances.

The future of the program has been uncertain since South Korea announced the suspension.

New test

On Thursday, North Korea reported it had successfully tested a new "ground-to-sea cruise rocket" capable of striking enemy battleships staging an attack.

The official North Korean news agency KCNA said Pyongyang launched several land-to-sea missiles early Thursday, under the supervision of leader Kim Jong Un. The missiles "accurately detected and hit the floating targets on the East Sea of Korea," it reported.

The missile test was North Korea's fourth in a month and came after the U.N. Security Council imposed new sanctions on Kim's government last week.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Thursday that the suspension of THAAD deployment was "part of the conversations" that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had with Trump at an Oval Office meeting on Thursday.

"This is a conversation that's taken place at the highest level. We are committed to our South Korean ally. That commitment remains ironclad. We are aware, certainly, of the situation and the suspension of additional launchers," Nauert said.