United States Army started deploying first elements of its anti-missile defense system in South Korea. The first batch of equipment arrived on Tuesday via C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft and is expected to be fully operational within several weeks.
US made a decision to deploy an anti-missile system in South Korea after North Korea conducted several ballistic missile launches. The last launch happened on March 7th, when four ballistic missiles hit their targets in Sea of Japan.
North Korea has been carrying out a series of missile tests in the last few weeks, raising fears and tension throughout the region. Japan and South Korea have expressed their concerns on the matter and informed the United Nations Security Council that these launches were in clear violation of UN resolutions and that North Korea poses a threat to the whole region.
Japan was especially angered by Pyongyang’s actions, as it’s radars tracked several missiles being fired into its direction, before dropping into the sea.
North Korean army was put in a higher state of readiness last week, after Pyongyang announced that military exercises being carried out in South Korea were a mere provocation and preparation for war. The country promised to retaliate and show force by test-launching its ballistic missiles.
In a phone conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe US President Donald Trump promised that the US will provide protection to both Japan and South Korea by deploying several anti-ballistic missile systems. These systems turn out to be Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD as they are known in military nomenclature.
THAAD is an ABM system designed and developed by the US to intercept short, medium and intermediate range ballistic missile in their terminal phase. It is equipped with a kinetic penetrator which rams the target and destroys it by pure kinetic energy, minimizing the risk of triggering the missile’s warhead. It has been in service since 2007 and has not seen any combat yet.
Although ineffective against Russian-made ICBM’s and ballistic missiles equipped with special mechanisms that enable them to evade anti-missile defense measures, THAAD is fully capable of bringing down ballistic missiles made and used by North Korea.
US decision to deploy THAAD to South Korea caused some negative reaction from China, which is considered North Korea’s most important and probably most powerful ally.
Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, denounced the United States’ decision to deploy THAAD. He warned that Beijing would “take the necessary steps to safeguard its own security interests.” He added that “the consequences will be shouldered by the United States and South Korea”.
Chinese officials and media warned their US counterparts that deploying more troops into the region could trigger an arms race, which might damage bilateral relations and cause instability and tensions.
This couldn’t have come in a worse time, since relations between USA and China have already become strained after China started building and arming several islands in the South China sea, reigniting regional territorial disputes.