The South Korea Defense Ministry on Thursday said the United States antimissile system that is deployed in South Korea is close to becoming operational, giving the two allies the capacity to defend against missile attacks by the North.
The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System deployed by the United states in South Korea in early March, after the North fired four missiles into the Sea of Japan. Beijing has vigorously opposed the system, fearing it could give the American military the ability to quickly detect and track missiles launched in China.
On Thursday, Moon Sang-gyun, a spokesman for South Korea’s Defense Ministry, said the system would soon go into “actual operation.” “The positioning of some equipment means that South Korea and the U.S. have the capability to cope with North Korea’s provocation,” he said, referring to the North’s growing missile capabilities.
Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., commander of the United States Pacific Command, told a congressional hearing in Washington Wednesday that Thaad would become operational “in the coming days.” The United States deployed radar and other crucial components of Thaad in Seongju, 135 miles southeast of Seoul, this week.
Alarmed by the development, China’s Ministry of National Defense said on Thursday that the antimissile system would undermine its own security, underlining Beijing’s persistent concerns about Thaad being placed into operation so close by.