US moves parts of controversial missile defense to South Korea

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In this photo provided by U.S. Forces Korea, trucks carrying parts of U.S. missile launchers and other equipment needed to set up Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system arrive at Osan air base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, Monday, March 6, 2017. (U.S. Force Korea via AP)

U.S. missile launchers and other equipment needed to set up a controversial missile defense system have arrived in South Korea, military officials for the U.S. and South Korea said Tuesday, a day after the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea test-fired four ballistic missiles into the ocean near Japan.

THAAD:

· System has six truck-mounted launchers that can fire up to 48 interceptor missiles per battery.

· Designed to take out incoming targets at relatively high altitudes midflight.

· THAAD battery includes fire control and communication equipment and radar for detecting target projectiles and initiating the interception process.

· Maker Lockheed Martin says the system has had “100 percent mission success” in flight testing since 2005.

The plans to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, within this year have angered not only the DPRK, but also China and Russia, which see the system’s powerful radars as a security threat saying the system would allow U.S. radar to peer deep into its territory and monitor its flights and missile launches.

China responded quickly, saying it will take “necessary steps” to protect itself and warning that the U.S. and South Korea should be prepared to bear the consequences.

“What I want to stress is that we are resolutely against the deployment of THAAD by the US and the ROK in the ROK, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said.

“All the consequences entailed shall be borne by the US and the ROK. We once again strongly urge the relevant parties to stop the deployment process, instead of traveling further down the wrong path.”

Geng also said that China has told the United States and South Korea about their position on multiple occasions.

“Both of them are very clear about where we stand,” Geng said.

At least two missile launchers and some other components for THAAD arrived in South Korea on Monday, and Seoul says the plan is to have the system operational as soon as possible.

Washington and Seoul say the system is defensive and not meant to be a threat to Beijing or Moscow. South Korean officials say THAAD would strengthen the country’s anti-missile capabilities, which currently rely on Patriot-based systems, and deter the DPRK, which continues to pursue a broad range of nuclear missiles, including those fired from road mobile launchers or submarines.

In this image made from video released by KRT on Tuesday, March 7, 2017, North Korea launches four missiles in an undisclosed location North Korea. On Monday, North Korea fired four ballistic missiles in an apparent protest against ongoing U.S.-South Korean military drills that it views as an invasion rehearsal. (KRT via AP Video)

Critics say THAAD doesn’t address more immediate threats to the South, including the North’s short-range missiles and artillery rockets that fly at lower altitudes and can hit Seoul and nearby cities, where about half of South Koreans live. Some South Korean liberal presidential candidates have said that the security benefits of having THAAD would be curtailed by worsened relations with neighbors China and Russia.

Residents in a rural South Korean town where THAAD is planned to sit have also furiously protested over rumored health hazards they link to the system’s powerful radar, and some of the country’s potential presidential candidates have vowed to walk back on the deal if they win office.

Criticism of THAAD has triggered protests in China against South Korean retail giant Lotte, which agreed to provide one of its golf courses in southern South Korea as the system’s site. Visits to China by South Korean film stars and singers have been canceled and shipments of South Korean cosmetics have been held up at customs.

A protester wearing a jacket with “No THAAD” letters, participates during a rally to oppose the plan to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, in front of the Defense Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, March 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

On Monday, the DPRK fired four ballistic missiles in an apparent protest against ongoing U.S.-South Korean military drills that it views as an invasion rehearsal. The missiles flew about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) on average, three of them landing in waters that Japan claims as its exclusive economic zone, according to South Korean and Japanese officials.

The North’s state media on Tuesday said leader Kim Jong Un supervised a ballistic rocket launching drill, a likely reference to the four launches reported by Seoul and Tokyo. Involved in the drills were artillery units tasked with striking “U.S. imperialist aggressor forces in Japan,” according to the Korean Central News Agency.

There was pride and defiance among the elite citizens who live in the DPRK’s showcase capital, Pyongyang.

On Tuesday, China’s Global Times, published by the Communist Party’s People’s Daily, criticized DPRK over its missile tests.

“By firing four missiles at once this time, the military confrontation between Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington escalates a notch,” the newspaper said. “Noticeably, the Chinese public is angry that Pyongyang’s nuclear program has provided an excuse for Seoul to deploy THAAD.”

Story by the Associated Press with information from CGTN America.