South Korea and the United States will deploy more of the anti-missile defences hated by China in response to Sunday’s nuclear test by North Korea, Seoul’s defence ministry said today.
Two launchers of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system are already operational, but public concern about the possible environmental impact of the US system forced Seoul to suspend the installation.
“Four remaining launchers will soon be temporarily deployed through consulations between South Korea and the US to counter growing nuclear and missile threats from the North,” the ministry said in a statement.
The THAAD launchers are sited on a golf course-turned-US military base in Seongju County, 300 kilometres (188 miles) south of Seoul.
The deployment has infuriated China, which has long argued it will destabilise the region and has retaliated against Seoul through unofficial economic sanctions.
Pyongyang on Sunday triggered global alarm with by far its most powerful nuclear blast to date. It claimed it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb that could be mounted onto a long-range missile.
The North — which in July carried out two intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launches that apparently brought much of the US mainland into range — has rapidly made progress with its weapons programme, in defiance of seven sets of UN sanctions.