US, South Korea agree to deploy THAAD missile system

July 8, 2016 8:00 am

Visitors look at images of THAAD
and PAC-3 missiles displayed on the Lockheed Martin stand inside the
ExCeL center in London on September 15, 2015. ©AFP

Washington and Seoul say they
have reached a formal agreement to deploy an advanced missile system
on the Korean Peninsula in a bid to counter alleged threats by
Pyongyang.

“Based on these consultations, the (South) and
the US made an alliance decision to deploy THAAD… as a defense
measure to ensure the security of the (South) and its people,” the
defense ministries of the two countries said in a joint statement on
Friday.
The statement also said the Terminal High Altitude Area
Defense (THAAD) will be stationed solely to counter the “nuclear and
missile threats” posed by North .
The two countries are in
the final stages of selecting the site to install the THAAD unit with
the US military stationed in the South, it added.
The ministry also noted that the anti-missile system will be operational by the end of next year.
THAAD
has been designed to intercept ballistic missiles inside or just
outside the atmosphere during their final phase of flight.
Tensions have been running high on the Korean Peninsula since Pyongyang carried out its fourth nuclear test in January.
In
February, the North put an earth observation satellite into orbit.
Following the launch, Seoul and Washington began talks on the THAAD
deployment to the Korean Peninsula.
The US says the deployment of
the missile system acts as a deterrent against North Korea’s ballistic
missile program, but China says it would undermine stability on the
restive peninsula.
Beijing views the planned move as an attempt to put their military facilities within the range of US radars.

South
Korean anti-war activists hold placards during a rally against talks on
deploying the THAAD missile system in Seoul on February 23, 2016. ©AFPTHAAD deployment ‘damage to peace’
Beijing
was quick to voice opposition to the deployment, saying Friday that the
move would “seriously damage the strategic security interests of
countries in the region, including China.”

“China
strongly urges the US and to stop the THAAD anti-missile
system deployment process,” its Foreign Ministry said in a statement,
adding the system would not aid the “denuclearization of the Korean
Peninsula.”

Pyongyang has been under UN sanctions
over its nuclear tests and launching missiles considered by the US and
South Korea as ballistic and aimed at delivering nuclear warheads.
The
country describes its nuclear capabilities as a deterrent against
hostile US policies. Thousands of US soldiers are stationed in South
Korea and Japan.
The latest developments come days after the US
imposed unilateral sanctions on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for the
first time over rights violation accusations.
On Thursday, North
Korea warned that the new US sanctions targeting the country’s leader
“crossed a red line” and amounted to “an open declaration of a war.”

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