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Analysts say US plan for missile defense in South Korea aimed not only against North Korea

Experts say they talk about North Korean threat but have China, Russia in mind

MOSCOW, August 16. /TASS/. Seoul’s and Washington’s decision to have the US missile defense complex THAAD up and running in the south of the Korean Peninsula in 2017 is aimed not just at countering a hypothetical threat from Pyongyang, but also at strengthening US positions in the Asia-Pacific Region, polled experts have told TASS.

Pyongyang sees the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) as part and parcel of a plan for armed intrusion into the DPRK. North Korea’s government-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Sunday said that the country was ready to deliver a pre-emptive strike against US armed forces in case of provocative actions in the Asia-Pacific Region.

Earlier, China and Russia came out against Seoul’s intention to host the US missile defense. Yet, South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye said on Monday the missile defense system had no alternative.

THAAD is a threat to all

The chief of the International Security Center at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ institute of the world economy and international relations (IMEMO), Aleksey Arbatov, has said protests against the United States’ THAAD in the Asia-Pacific Region were coming not only from Pyongyang, Beijing and Moscow, but also from South Koreans themselves. The population of those areas of South Korea where US missile defense facilities are to emerge reasonably fear that their localities will be the first targets for North Korean missiles in case of an aggravation of relations with Pyongyang. About one thousand men in South Korea’s Seoungju, where a THAAD battery will be deployed, have staged a mass protest action. They had their heads shaved to express their strong disagreement with the authorities’ plans.

"North Korea argues it is its right to keep the Republic of Korea at gunpoint. South Koreans are afraid of any aggravations in relations with Pyongyang, so they urge the authorities not to quarrel with the northerners and strongly protest THAAD deployment," Arbatov said.

"Beijing is angry over the US plans for planting missile defense systems in South Korea because the THAAD will be able to reach China’s missile bases. Moscow sees eye to eye with Beijing," Arbatov said.

They talk about North Korean threat but have China, Russia in mind

"Although Seoul and Washington claim that the THAAD complexes in South Korea are a countermeasure against North Korea’s nuclear threat, in reality the Americans have China in mind first and foremost. The North Koreans are still very far from making delivery vehicles for nuclear warheads, while China does have intermediate range missiles," says the deputy director of the Institute of US and Canada Studies, Major-General Pavel Zolotaryov, retired.

He explains that THAAD battery will consist of an anti-missile radar, six launchers, 48 interceptor missiles, a control room and a power generator.

"The THAAD radar is capable of monitoring not only China’s military facilities in the South China Sea, but also a considerable part of Chinese territory where medium-range missiles are stationed," Zolotaryov said.

"The Russian-US INF treaty does not apply to China, whose intermediate range missiles constitute a major threat to US aircraft carrier groups - the main tool of projecting US military power to the Asia-Pacific Region," Zolotaryov said.

Also, the THAAD radar is capable of reaching China’s intermediate range missiles test site. "The United States would like to find out the parameters of these missiles. Its radar is capable of identifying objects as small as 10-15 centimeters. This will enable the Pentagon to adjust its missiles to countering a hypothetical Chinese threat," Zolotaryov said.

The chief of the Military-Political Studies Center at the Moscow institute of international relations MGIMO, Aleksey Podberyozkin, recalls that North Korea has no inter-continental missiles and Pyongyang is unable to threaten the United States. "At a certain point, as it brought its missile defense system to Poland and Romania, the United States claimed that it was doing so to ward off a potential nuclear threat from Iran. This risk factor has now been neutralized, but the US missile defense facilities in Europe are still there. Obviously, they are meant for Russia."

"Pyongyang’s aggressiveness is an excuse that comes in handy for the United States to explain the deployment of the THAAD in South Korea. China’s expansion and Russia’s strategic potential are its real aims," Podberyozkin said.