South Korea and the US have agreed to deploy a US anti-ballistic missile system in South Korea as a shield against North Korea’s increasing missile and nuclear threats, sparking a strong rebuke from China. The two allies began talks on deploying the US THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defence) system to the Korean peninsula in February when the North launched a long-range rocket following a fourth nuclear test in January.
“Based on these consultations, the (South) and the US made an alliance decision to deploy THAAD… as a defence measure to ensure the security of the (South) and its people,” the defence ministries of the two countries said in a joint statement. It did not reveal exactly when and where in the South the system would be deployed, saying the two nations were in the final stage of selecting a potential venue.
Seoul’s defence ministry said on Friday the Terminal High-Altitude Air Defence platform would be deployed “soon” by US forces stationed in South Korea to counter the North Korean threat and would not be directed to any other country. The decision was made “as a defensive measure to ensure the security of the South and its people, and to protect alliance military forces from North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile threats,” the ministry said in a statement.
The plan to deploy the powerful anti-missile system, which fires projectiles to smash into enemy missiles, has irritated China and Russia which earlier described it as a bid to flex US military muscle in the region. China Friday said it strongly opposed deployment of the system and warned that it would “seriously damage” regional security in northeast Asia. Friday’s announcement tried to defuse concern among Seoul’s neighbours, saying the system, once deployed, would only target potential attacks from North Korea.