Seoul, July 8 (IANS) South Korea and the US in a joint statement on Friday announced their decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence with the US Forces Korea (USFK) despite continued opposition from neighbouring countries.
The aim is to tackle North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, Xinhua news agency reported.
Seoul and Washington 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 comprises of six mobile launchers, 48 interceptors, airborne radar and fire control system.
Seoul reportedly has no plan to purchase the THAAD system estimated around 1.5 trillion won ($1.3 billion). Seoul would provide site and infrastructure for the deployment, while Washington would pay costs for operation and maintenance.
The announcement came despite repeated oppositions from China and Russia, which have opposed to the THAAD deployment on the peninsula as the US missile defence system far exceeds South Korea’s actual defence needs and would directly threaten the strategic security of the two countries.
The THAAD’s radar can locate missiles far beyond North Korean territory, causing China and Russia to repeatedly voice serious concerns over the deployment.
China’s foreign ministry on Friday said the Chinese side was dissatisfied with and firmly opposed to the deployment of THAAD in South Korea.
The Seoul defence ministry on Thursday notified its neighbouring countries, including China and Russia, of its final decision to deploy the THAAD.
The statement said the US defence system will not target any other third country but will be operated only in response to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.
It said North Korea’s nuclear tests and many ballistic missile test-launches pose a serious threat to security and stability in South Korea and the entire Asia-Pacific region.
Pyongyang conducted its fourth nuclear test on January 6, followed on February 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.
North Korea on June 23 said 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 US 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 the two allies decided to deploy the THAAD to defend the military forces of the South Korea-US alliance and protect the safety of South Korea and its people from North Korean nuclear threats, weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles.