South Korea, U.S. Select Site for Thaad Missile Defense System

  • North Korea has vowed physical reitaliation for picking site
  • China, Russia strongly oppose system on Korean peninsula

South Korea and the U.S. selected the location for a new missile defense system, a move that will escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula and raise the ire of neighbor China.

South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense said the countries agreed to place the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad, system in Seongju, a mountainous region more than 200 kilometers (125 miles) southeast of Seoul. The site is near U.S. and South Korean military bases, but out of range of North Korea’s multiple rocket launchers, Yonhap News Agency reported.

The decision is likely to fan tensions in the region. North Korea vowed to retaliate with a “physical response” the moment South Korea and U.S. decided on the location of the missile system.

China and Russia have warned the installation of the Thaad would destabilize the area. China’s foreign minister has said the system’s powerful radars threaten his country’s national security because it has a radius that’s far beyond the Korean peninsula and reaches into the interior of China.

The site selection also increases friction between U.S. and China, which a day earlier was dealt a blow when an international tribunal rejected the country’s claims to exclusive control of much of the South China Sea.

For an explainer on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, click here.

South Korea and the U.S. repeated their assertions that the Thaad system would be a deterrent to North Korea’s nuclear and missile ambitions and said it was not directed at any other nation. They said the system would be deployed by the end of next year at the latest.

North Korea in January conducted a nuclear test and followed up with numerous firings of intermediate-range ballistic missiles capable of reaching Japan and Guam, in violation of a United Nations ban.

On Saturday, the regime test-fired a ballistic missile from a submarine off its east coast, a day after describing U.S. financial sanctions against leader Kim Jong Un as an “open declaration of war.” South Korea said the projectile launched successfully but appeared to have failed in early flight.

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