SEOUL: North Korea’s latest intercontinental ballistic missile test has prompted the South to speed up the deployment of a US missile defense system, Seoul’s defense 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 defense 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 program 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 defense minister told journalists.
The THAAD battery is composed of six interceptor missile launchers. Two launchers have been tentatively deployed at a golf course-turned-US military base in Seongju County, some 300 kilometers south of Seoul.
The THAAD deployment has infuriated China, which has long argued it will destabilize 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.”
Seoul’s defense 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 defense 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.”
US mainland within striking range
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un said Pyongyang’s latest test of an intercontinental ballistic missile confirmed all the US mainland was within striking range, state media reported Saturday.
Kim said Friday’s test demonstrated the North’s ability to launch “at any place and time,” the Korean Central News Agency reported, adding “the leader said proudly the test also confirmed all the US mainland is within our striking range.”
“Dear Leader Kim Jong-Un expressed great satisfaction with the perfectly successful test and praised its developers,” KCNA said.
The report said the test confirmed the missile’s nuclear detonation control mechanism operated normally and that the warhead could endure the intense heat of re-entering the atmosphere.
With its second ICBM test this month, North Korea is doubling down on its threat to develop nuclear-strike capability against the US mainland in the face of severe warnings from President Donald Trump.
China Saturday condemned North Korea’s launch and urged restraint by all sides after the US and South Korea held a military exercise in response to the test.
“China opposes North Korea’s violations of UN Security Council resolutions and (its actions) contrary to the general aspirations of the international community,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.
Beijing “urged North Korea to abide by UN resolutions and stop taking actions that could worsen the situation,” Geng said in a brief statement on the ministry’s website.
“At the same time, (China) hopes that all parties concerned will exercise caution and avoid aggravating tensions and act together to preserve peace and stability on the peninsula,” he said.
Washington, Tokyo, Seoul and the European Union all swiftly condemned Friday’s missile test, which North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un said brought the whole of the US mainland within striking range.
US President Donald Trump vowed to take “all necessary steps to ensure the security of the American homeland and protect our allies in the region.”
The US and South Korea conducted a live-fire exercise using surface-to-surface missiles after the launch, the US army said.
The heads of the US and South Korean militaries discussed “military response options” after North Korea’s launch, the Pentagon said.
China, Pyongyang’s main economic and diplomatic ally, opposes any military intervention and calls for a resolution through dialogue.