The military arm of North Korea’s government released a statement on Friday, declaring that the deployment of American THAAD missile systems in South Korea would be met with “physical action.”
The statement, released through North Korea’s official media outlet, KCNA, went on to accuse the United States of colluding with South Korea in a plot to mount a “preemptive attack on the North,” adding that this development has brought the Korean peninsula to the “brink of a nuclear war,” and suggesting that the North Koreans would consider a nuclear response to the American armament.
Their response came directly after American Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, dismissed China’s complaints about the US deploying THAAD missile systems in both South Korea and Japan. During a public meeting with his South Korean counterpart, Mattis addressed North Korean hostility specifically as the reason for the American anti-missile defense system, or THAAD, to be stationed in South Korea.
“North Korea continues to launch missiles, develop its nuclear weapons program and engage in threatening rhetoric and behavior,” Mattis said. “Any attack on the United States or on our allies will be defeated and any use of nuclear weapons will be met with a response that will be effective and overwhelming.”
North Korea’s military responded by accusing the United States of misrepresenting what the THAAD missile system is intended for, calling it an “invasion tool” and accusing the United States of pursuing “world supremacy.”
“There will be physical response measures from us as soon as the location and time that the invasionary tool for US world supremacy, THAAD, will be brought into South Korea are confirmed,” the North’s military said in a statement.
“We once again warn the enemies that it is the steadfast will of the KPA [Korean People’s Army] to make merciless retaliatory strikes to reduce South Korea to a sea in flames, debris once an order is issued.”
South Korea’s president defended the placement of the THAAD missile system in his country, calling it a “purely defensive” system.
“The international community will be aware that we have no intention to target or threaten another country … we are taking a purely defensive measure to protect our country and our people,” President Park Geun-Hye said during a meeting with advisors.
China has also voiced strong opposition to American THAAD missile systems being placed in South Korea and Japan, which is Mattis’ next stop on his Asian tour of alliance affirmation – a move ordered by President Trump to reassure our allies that have grown concerned about Trump’s continued support of the alliances that help defend both South Korea and Japan.
China, which has been rapidly developing its military in recent years, is the only Asian nation with what is considered a fourth generation fighter aircraft, the J-20, which is, for all intents and purposes, a manufactured copy of the American F-22, built through stolen designs. They are also the only nuclear power in the region for the time being, meaning the THAAD systems, once in place, would severely hinder China’s ability to use its nuclear arsenal if it ever intended to.
China chimed in alongside North Korea, offering their own complaints about a THAAD system being placed in South Korea.
“We believe that the action by the US and the Republic of Korea will undermine the strategic and security interests of regional countries including China.” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said, adding that China is “firmly opposed” to the deployment of the new system.
The THAAD missile system, designed by Lockheed Martin, is designed to intercept short and medium ranged ballistic missiles both inside and outside the atmosphere. The system is truck-based to aid in its ability to be positioned wherever necessary and can work in conjunction with other missile defense systems to “defend population centers and high value infrastructures.”
The THAAD platform works by identifying missile launches via radar, then launching its own interceptor to engage the missile while still airborne using kinetic energy to destroy it. It would be nearly impossible to use the THAAD for any kind of offensive operation, as the missiles it launches are designed to engage airborne ballistic missiles. The inherent defensive nature of the weapon system makes the suggestion that its deployment is a part of an offensive strategy by South Korea or the United States not only laughable, but also shows the hands of both North Korea and China, as they attempt to play politics in an effort to maintain their ability to threaten the region with nuclear strikes.
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