Moscow, Feb 19 (IANS) The deployment of an advanced US missile system in South Korea in the wake of the launch of a satellite by North Korea earlier this month could raise tension in the region, a Russian expert has warned.
The deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) “will lead to a dangerous increase in tension between the US and a number of Northeast Asian nations”, Xinhua quoted Yevgeni Kim as saying on Thursday.
Kim, a senior researcher at the Centre for Korean Studies of Russian Academy of Sciences, said the move was aimed at Russia and China, rather than Pyongyang as it claimed.
Washington and Seoul started earlier this month to negotiate the deployment of THAAD to South Korea in response to the launch of a satellite by North Korea.
The launch, which took place about a month after Pyongyang claimed it had successfully tested its first hydrogen bomb, raised serious concerns around the world as many considered it was a test of a ballistic missile that could be used to launch a nuclear weapon.
Kim said though the US cited Pyongyang’s move as a pretext for deploying THAAD, it is the North Korea’s two bigger neighbours that THAAD is targeted.
The THAAD system was designed to intercept intercontinental ballistic missiles at an altitude of over 50 km, but if North Korea wanted to use nuclear weapons against South Korea, it would use rockets that fly at much lower altitudes, Kim said.
“The deployment of the THAAD missile defence system in South Korea is not directed against Pyongyang. North Korea’s nuclear activity is just an excuse,” Kim said.
Kim recalled the US and the Soviet Union signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty in 1972, which for a number of years contained the development of new missile defence systems.
However the treaty was terminated as the United States withdrew in 2002.
“Now the US is talking more and more about new missile defence areas and about the need for a global missile defence system,” Kim said.
He also noted that the US had not abandoned its plan to deploy missile systems in Europe even after the alleged Iranian missile threat, which the systems are said to counter, was gone.
“Now they are applying the same pattern for the Korean peninsula,” he said.
Kim suggested that the deployment of the THAAD system in South Korea was aimed at intercepting Russian and Chinese ballistic missiles that could be launched in retaliation against a possible US nuclear strike.
“It is a step that undermines the global balance of power, and the existing security system in Northeast Asia,” Kim said.