Seoul, South Korea | AFP | North Korea’s latest intercontinental ballistic missile test has prompted the South to speed up the deployment of a US missile defence system, Seoul’s defence minister said Saturday, despite strong protests from China.
The US military will also roll out “strategic assets” to the South following the North’s missile test late Friday, Song Young-Moo said.
Parts of the THAAD defence system were brought into the country under the government of ousted president Park Geun-Hye, but new leader Moon Jae-In suspended deployment of the programme last month, citing the need for a new environmental impact assessment.
“We will soon start consultations on the tentative deployment” of the remaining components of the THAAD battery in response to Pyongyang’s most recent test, the defence minister told journalists.
The THAAD battery comprises six interceptor missile launchers. Two launchers have been tentatively deployed at a golf course-turned-US military base in Seongju County, 300 kilometres (187.5 miles) south of Seoul.
The THAAD deployment has infuriated China, which has long argued it will destabilise the region.
“China expresses serious concern about the actions of the Republic of Korea,” Beijing’s ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement Saturday.
“China’s resolute opposition to the deployment by the USA of the THAAD system in South Korea is consistent and clear. The THAAD system deployment cannot solve South Korea’s security concerns, neither can it solve the problems facing the Korean peninsula.
“It will only make these problems more complicated.”
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) ran a statement late Saturday warning of a “miserable fate” for the South’s government if it persists with the scheme, in a typically bellicose piece railing against THAAD.
Seoul’s defence minister did not provide details on the “strategic assets” the US planned to send to the Korean peninsula and the surrounding area.
The phrase normally refers to high-profile weapons systems, such as stealth bombers and aircraft carriers.
The South’s defence ministry also released a video of a newly developed ballistic missile which it said was one of the world’s “most accurate and powerful” weapons and capable of striking “any target in the North at any time and any place”.