U.S. Forces Korea to deploy Thaad unit very soon

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U.S. Forces Korea to deploy Thaad unit very soon

Seoul and Washington decided to deploy a controversial and advanced antimissile system in South Korea, and it will be operated by America’s military forces in South Korea.

South Korea will provide the site and necessary infrastructure for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) battery, such as electricity and water supplies, a senior Korean defense official said Friday. The United States will pay for the cost of deploying the battery and operating troops there.

The site will be chosen on grounds of military effectiveness and safety of local residents, he said, rejecting speculation that China’s worries about being spied on by the battery will be a factor in choosing the location.

South Korea and the United States will discuss next week a specific plan to bring a Thaad system to Korea, the official said, stressing that the two countries want to complete the deployment as soon as possible. Following North Korea’s firing of a long-range missile on Sunday, Seoul and Washington decided to formally discuss the system’s deployment in the South.

“The United States will deploy one Thaad battery to the U.S. Forces Korea,” said a senior official from the National Defense Ministry. “It will be one battery. A second or a third battery is not a subject of our discussion.”

He said the timing still has to be decided. “Right now, the stance of Korea and the United States is that deployment should be completed at the earliest possible date,” he said.

The official rejected media reports that Seoul and Washington will take into consideration other countries’ opinions when selecting the location of the Thaad battery. The placement of the system in Korea has been controversial because it comes with a powerful radar system that can cover more than 1,000 kilometers (621 miles). China and Russia protest that the radar can be used as a method of surveillance against them.

“Taking into account neighboring countries’ stances when selecting the location won’t serve military purposes,” he said. “It will be placed where its military usefulness can be maximized and where the safety of residents and the environment is guaranteed.”

Some media reported earlier that Seoul and Washington will likely place the Thaad battery in the southeastern part of the country, such as North Gyeongsang Province, to placate China.

“There are concerns that the United States will eventually ask us to purchase the system,” the source said. “But the government has no plans to buy it.”

A typical Thaad battery comes with a control center, Army Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance(AN/TPY-2) radar deployed in terminal mode, six launchers and 48 missiles, according to the source.

The official also denied that the Thaad deployment is part of the U.S.-led missile defense regime. “It is not to shoot down an intercontinental ballistic missile,” he said. “It is not to defend the U.S. mainland, or another country. It is to defend South Korea and the U.S. Forces Korea.”

The Thaad system is an easily transportable defensive weapon system to protect against hostile incoming threats such as tactical and theatre ballistic missiles at ranges of 200 kilometers and altitudes of up to 150 kilometers. The system is capable of intercepting both exo-atmospheric and endo-atmospheric threats.

BY JEONG YONG-SU, SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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