Seoul says N. Korea test-fires submarine-launched missile

Pentagon

Washington and Seoul announced Friday morning a long-delayed agreement to deploy the "Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense" - THAAD - system in response to the growing nuclear threat from North Korea.

South Korea's military has said THAAD will bolster its defence against North Korean missiles, but its political leaders have been reluctant to commit to it because of China's objections.

The officials said the deployment is to answer North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile development programs.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, also welcomed the decision.

Through the past months of review, the U.S.-South Korea Joint Working Group confirmed the military effectiveness of THAAD on the Korean Peninsula, and is in the final stage of preparing its recommendation for both the South Korean minister of national defense and the U.S. secretary of defense regarding the optimal site in South Korea for the system's effectiveness and for environmental, health, and safety requirements, according to the release.

Beijing's concerns over the system stem from a belief not so much that it would be able to bring down Chinese missiles, but more that it might provide early warning "in the fantastic and highly unlikely event of a nuclear confrontation" between China and the United States, as Nicholas Kitchen of the London School of Economics and Political Science told The Christian Science Monitor earlier this year.

Vandal said the two countries had to defend themselves from North Korean weapons.

Discussions between US and South Korea began in February after North Korea fired a long range missile.

"China is very unsatisfied and resolutely opposes" the move, China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement Friday.

In a tacit acknowledgment of China's concerns, the statement goes on to say the missile-defense system would focus "solely on North Korean nuclear and missile threats and would not be directed towards any third party nations". It added this will "seriously damage the strategic security interests of related countries, including China", demanding the "immediate halt" of the process of deploying the Thaad. In March, Washington and Seoul established a joint task force to discuss possible deployment.

Joel Wit, editor of 38 North, also said that the THAAD decision would inflame tensions.

AN/TPY-2 radar can be deployed in either a terminal-based mode, which limits its range and aims to destroy ballistic missiles in its descent phase, or forward-based mode, which tracks ballistic missiles in its ascent.

The missile was sacked from a location near the North Korean coastal town of Sinpo, where analysts have previously detected efforts by the North to develop submarine-launched ballistic missile systems, said an official from Seoul's Defense Ministry, who didn't want to be named, citing office rules.

A South Korean defense official said in response to China's strong protest, "The Defense Ministry's position is that there is nothing more important than protecting our people's lives and property".

A Thaad battery is comprised of one AN/TPY-2 phased array radar, six mobile launchers, 48 interceptor missiles and a fire control and communications unit, which can cost up to 1.5 trillion won ($1.3 billion).

Related news: