Saturday, 21 April, 2018

US sets up missile defence in South Korea as North shows power

US sets up missile defence in South Korea as North shows power US sets up missile defence in South Korea as North shows power
Lance Thomas | 28 April, 2017, 04:53

China said on Wednesday it had expressed serious concern to Washington and Seoul after the USA military started moving parts of its controversial THAAD anti-missile defense system to a deployment site in South Korea.

US Pacific Command chief Adm. Harry Harris told the House Armed Services Committee that the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system would be "operational in the coming days to be able to better defend South Korea against the growing North Korea threat".

He said that Australia therefore had to "get much more serious, potentially quite quickly given the looming North Korea threat, about missile defence for deployed forces".

"I don't share your confidence that North Korea is not going to attack either South Korea, or Japan, or the United States. once they have the capability", Harris told a lawmaker at one point.

The United States began moving the first elements of the advanced missile defence system into South Korea in early March after the North test-launched four ballistic missiles.

The U.S. and South Korean militaries have been reluctant to publicly discuss the progress of the deployment ahead of the South Korean presidential election.

"China strongly urges the US and South Korea to stop actions that would raise regional tensions as well as harm China's strategic and security interests by canceling the THAAD deployment and withdrawing relevant equipment".

"The President's approach aims to pressure North Korea into dismantling its nuclear, ballistic missile, and proliferation programs by tightening economic sanctions and pursuing diplomatic measures with our allies and regional partners", it said.

China has vehemently protested the decision, claiming the system, especially its powerful radar, could be used against the country, despite repeated assurances from Washington and Seoul that it is a defensive system designed only to counter North Korean threats.

A spokesman for Moon Jae-in said the decision "ignored public opinion and due process" and demanded the deployment be suspended until the next administration was in place and had made its policy decision.

Global tensions over the North Korea threat remain high.

Television footage showed military trailers carrying equipment, including what appeared to be launch canisters, to the battery site. Images showed local protesters hurling water bottles at the vehicles and police trying to block them.

Mr. Kim said about 200 protesters rallied overnight and they would keep up their opposition.

A police official in the nearby town of Seongju said police had withdrawn from the area and were not aware of any injuries.

The testimony was the latest sobering reminder of growing US alarm about North Korean capabilities, as President Donald Trump signals a willingness to use force, if needed, should diplomatic efforts fail to constrain Pyongyang.

The system was moved onto a golf course in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea on Tuesday, prompting clashes between locals and police.

The goal is to have the complete system fully operational by the end of this year but the US and South Korea have publicly stressed the need to speed up the deployment of the technology as tensions have mounted with Pyongyang.

North Korea often marks significant dates by displaying its military capability and has conducted five nuclear tests. South Korea's navy has said it will hold drills with the U.S. strike group.

Harris told the House panel the United States has ships capable of defending ballistic missile attacks from North Korea, and that Pyongyang "does not have a weapon that would threaten the Carl Vinson strike group".

North Korea's foreign ministry denounced a scheduled UN Security Council meeting on Friday, chaired by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, saying the United States was "not morally entitled" to force members states to impose sanctions on it.

The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier is headed toward the Korean Peninsula and will hold a joint exercise with South Korea.

"It is a wild dream for the United States to think of depriving the DPRK of its nuclear deterrent through military threat and sanctions".

A U.S. guided-missile submarine arrived in South Korea on Tuesday and envoys from the U.S., Japan and South Korea met in Tokyo, as North Korea marked the anniversary of the founding of its military.

DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name. "It is just like sweeping the sea with a broom", the North's KCNA cited a foreign ministry spokesman as saying.

But he said, "if there's a war today, it's over there".

"The courageous artillerymen mercilessly and satisfactorily hit the targets and the gunshots were very correct, he said, adding that they showed well the volley of gunfire of our a-match-for-a-hundred artillery force giving merciless punishment to the hostile forces", KCNA cited Kim as saying.

The drill came instead of a nuclear test or the launch of a long-range missile as feared amid pressure from the United States and China, its sole major ally which has been irritated by Pyongyang's weapons development.

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