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U.S. Antimissile System in South Korea Is Said to Be Nearly Operational

The antimissile system that the United States deployed in South Korea over China’s objections is close to becoming operational, giving the two allies the capability to defend against missile attacks by the North, the South’s Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

Via: Gerry Mullany

The United States deployed the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, known as Thaad, 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 provocations,” he said, referring to the North’s growing missile capabilities.

The comments by Mr. Moon followed remarks by Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., commander of the United States Pacific Command, who told a congressional hearing in Washington on 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.

“The real goal of the United States and South Korea in deploying Thaad is as a move in the game of the United States’ global antimissile defense system,” Maj. Gen. Cai Jun, a senior officer in the Joint Staff Department of China’s Central Military Commission, said at a news briefing in Moscow on Thursday, the Chinese Ministry of Defense said online. “This will further tighten the Asia-Pacific antimissile barrier enclosing China and Russia, and will weaken their strategic capacities — something we adamantly oppose.”

General Cai said that broader American antimissile plans “are in fact seeking an absolute unilateral military advantage, and this will exacerbate regional tensions, triggering localized antagonism and even an all-out arms race, and ultimately this will damage global and regional strategic stability.”

Late Wednesday, a report emerged from North Korea about soaring gas prices and hoarding of fuel in the capital, Pyongyang. The Associated Press, which employs one of the few Western reporters based there, said that a kilogram of gas, which had cost 70 to 80 cents, was now selling for $1.40 at one station, and that the apparent shortage had led to rumors that China was behind the problem.

The Trump administration has been encouraging Beijing to put economic pressure on North Korea to curtail its nuclear and missile tests, and the Chinese state news media recently hinted that the government would cut off fuel supplies if Pyongyang conducted its sixth atomic detonation.

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