More defensive interceptors will be deployed

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More defensive interceptors will be deployed

As questions grow over the actual effectiveness of a U.S.-led anti-missile program to be deployed in South Korea against the North’s attacks, a senior Seoul official said the U.S. military will deploy dozens more interceptors for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system.

“Because North Korea operates more than 1,000 missiles, the 48 interceptors operated by a typical Thaad battery are not enough,” the official told the JoongAng Ilbo on Friday. “In order to shoot down one North Korean missile, we may need two or three interceptors. In order to improve the defense capability, [the U.S. military] concluded that more interceptors should be deployed.”

South Korea and the United States decided earlier this month that the Thaad system will be deployed on the peninsula as a deterrence against the North’s nuclear and missile threats.

Seongju of North Gyeongsang was selected on Wednesday as the site for the advanced anti-ballistic missile system. A typical Thaad battery comes with a control center, Army Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance (AN/TPY-2) radar, six launchers and 48 missiles. The U.S. Forces Korea will operate one Thaad battery in Seongju while deploying additional interceptors as inventories, the source said.

Not only military experts but also politicians from both the ruling and opposition parties questioned the effectiveness of the system, as its interceptor is largely outnumbered by the North’s missiles.

But Yang Wook, a senior researcher at the Korea Defense and Security Forum said the North is not capable of launching its 1,000 missiles at once. The communist regime has about 100 launchers for the Scud and Rodong missiles targeting the South and only about half of them are operational simultaneously.

The government appeared to have prepared for the controversy concerning the number of interceptors of a typical Thaad battery. In his testimony before the National Assembly in February, Minister of National Defense Han Min-koo said the deployment of one Thaad battery will cost about 1 trillion won ($878 billion), and the total expense will be about 1.5 trillion won. The United States agreed to pay for the purchase of the Thaad battery and its operational costs.

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

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