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S.Korea, U.S. decide to deploy THAAD despite opposition from neighbors

Editor: Zhang Jianfeng 丨Xinhua

07-08-2016 14:27 BJT

SEOUL, July 8 (Xinhua) -- South Korea and the United States on Friday announced their final decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) despite continued oppositions from neighboring countries.

The military authorities jointly made an official announcement to deploy the advanced U.S. missile defense system in the USFK stationed on the Korean peninsula to tackle the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s nuclear and missile threats.

Seoul and Washington reportedly aim to deploy one THAAD battery by the end of next year, which would be operated by the allied forces under the operational control of the USFK commander. A THAAD battery is composed of six mobile launchers, 48 interceptors, airborne radar and fire control system.

Seoul allegedly has no plan to purchase the THAAD system estimated at about 1.5 trillion won (1.3 billion U.S. dollars). Seoul would provide site and infrastructure for the deployment, while Washington would pay costs for operation and maintenance.

The deployment site would be announced within weeks. Potential candidate sites are known to be Pyeongtaek in Gyeonggi province, Wonju in Gangwon province, Eumseong in South Chungcheong province, Chilgok in North Gyeongsang province and Gunsan in North Jeolla province.

The announcement came despite repeated oppositions from China and Russia, which have opposed to the THAAD deployment on the Korean peninsula as the U.S. missile defense system far exceeds South Korea's actual defense needs and would directly threaten the strategic security of the two countries.

The THAAD's radar can locate missiles far beyond the DPRK territory, causing China and Russia to repeatedly voice serious concerns over the deployment. The X-band radar can spot missile as far as 2,000 km with forward-based mode and 600 km with terminal mode. As the two have the same hardware, the terminal mode, which South Korea allegedly plans to adopt, can be changed into the radar with a much longer detectable range.

China's foreign ministry said in a statement Friday that the Chinese side is strongly dissatisfied with and firmly opposes to the deployment of THAAD in South Korea.

The Seoul defense ministry allegedly notified its neighboring countries, including China and Russia, of its final decision to deploy the U.S. missile defense system on Thursday afternoon.

The joint statement said that if the THAAD is deployed on the Korean peninsula, it will not target any other third country but will be operated only in response to the DPRK's nuclear and missile threats.

It said the DPRK's nuclear tests and many ballistic missile test-launches, including the recent intermediate-range ballistic missile firing, pose a serious threat to security and stability in South Korea and the entire Asia-Pacific region.

Pyongyang conducted its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6, followed on Feb. 7 by the launch of a long-range rocket, which was condemned as a disguised test of ballistic missile technology. On the day of the rocket launch, Seoul and Washington announced its decision to review whether to deploy the THAAD on the peninsula.

The DPRK said on June 23 that it had succeeded in test-firing a surface-to-surface strategic ballistic missile Hwaseong-10, called in South Korea as Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile.

The Musudan missile, which is known to be capable of hitting part of the U.S. territory such as Guam and the outer reaches of Alaska, is considered especially threatening as it is fired from a mobile launcher, making it hard to detect and track in times of military conflicts. It can also carry a nuclear warhead.

The statement said Seoul and Washington have continued consultations since February on whether to deploy the THAAD system in the USFK to enhance the missile defense posture of the South Korea-U.S. alliance in response to the DPRK threats.

It said that the two allies decided to deploy the THAAD in the USFK as part of defense measures to defend the military forces of the South Korea-U.S. alliance and protect the safety of South Korea and its people from the DPRK's nuclear threats, weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles.

However, civic group activists in South Korea have said that the deployment of THAAD will be expected to trigger arms race in Northeast Asia and escalate regional tensions.

The joint working-group talks of South Korea and the U.S. over the past several months have reviewed and confirmed the military effectiveness of the THAAD on the Korean peninsula, and the working groups are in a final preparation to propose to defense ministers of the two countries the optimal site for the THAAD deployment in terms of the effectiveness, environment, health and safety, according to the statement.

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