Yesterday's snap deployment of the US THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea has led to significant reverberations among the region, with not only North Korea, but also Russia and China slamming the move.
As reported last night, various equipment including 2 launch pads for U.S. missile defense system known as THAAD arrived in South Korea on Monday and will continue to be brought in, Yonhap News said."Continued provocative actions by North Korea, to include yesterday's launch of multiple missiles, only confirm the prudence of our alliance decision last year to deploy THAAD to South Korea," Adm. Harry Harris, commander, US Pacific Command, said in a news release.
US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and South Korean Defense Secretary Han Min-koo spoke over the phone last week and agreed that THAAD should be deployed "ASAP."
U.S. military releases first pictures of THAAD anti-missile system being deployed to South Korea overnight. pic.twitter.com/wXx1dmddC8— James Pearson (@pearswick) March 7, 2017
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer signaled the deployment Monday when he told reporters that the United States is "taking steps to enhance our ability to defend against North Korea's ballistic missiles, such as through the deployment of a THAAD battery to South Korea." U.S. defense officials confirmed to NBC News on Monday night that that meant delivery was already under way — not that the United States was simply restating its previous promises to send the system to South Korea sometime in the future.
Both China and Russia lodged protests against the deployment: "We think the US-South Korean decision to deploy the THAAD missile defense system has seriously threatened China's security interest. For the region, it will also break the strategic balance. So it's completely understandable to see countries in the region firmly oppose this decision," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said. "China and other countries have to address our own legitimate security concerns and take necessary measures to safeguard our security interest."
"Deployment of US missile defense systems in South Korea clearly goes beyond the tasks of deterring 'the North Korean threat,'" Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said in October, according to Russian state-run Tass news agency.
However, it was North Korea which as expected, was the most vocal, and tried to shift blame away from its recent launch of 4 ballistic missiles and redirect attention to the joint US-South Korean drills taking place. As Reuters reports, North Korea faced a chorus of condemnation on Tuesday for its latest ballistic missile tests but declared that ongoing joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises were aimed at conducting a "pre-emptive nuclear attack" against Pyongyang.
Ju Yong Choi, a North Korean diplomat, told the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament in Geneva that the "massive, unprecedented" joint drills were "a major cause of escalation of tension that might turn into actual war".
Robert Wood, U.S. Disarmament Ambassador, retorted that North Korea was a "a pariah, an outlier" that has violated multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions and international law by conducting ballistic missile and nuclear tests.
With the US now ready to fire anti-missile weapons on a moment's notice out of North Korea, many are concerned that the next launch by North Korea's irrational ruler may promptly escalate the region to a state of conventional war.