US deploying THAAD in South Korea

08 Mar 2017 | Written by NewsBytes Desk; Edited by Gaurav Jeyaraman
THAAD, the US and China

The US has begun deploying the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system in South Korea, saying it was a means to protect them against North Korean missiles.

Seoul said the system would be operational in a year. The move has angered observers in Pyongyang and raised concerns in South Korea too.

Beijing is also vehemently opposed to the US installing the system in its neighbourhood.

In context: THAAD, the US and China

Ballistic missilesBallistic missiles and defences: Overview

Ballistic missiles have 3 phases of flight: the boost phase (lift off/launch), mid-course and terminal phase (target approach).

Ballistic missile defences are designed to intercept at all these phases. While a boost-phase intercept is most effective, it is difficult as the defence system needs to be close to enemy launch sites.

THAAD is a terminal phase interceptor system.


THAAD is the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, which seeks to defend a particular area from incoming ballistic missiles.

The system consists of a radar, which detects incoming missiles; a command and control center which tracks the missile; and the projectile which is launched to intercept the missile & destroy it in its terminal-phase.

Each system can be used to intercept multiple incoming targets.

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North Korea's missile tests and threats

PyongyangNorth Korea's missile tests and threats

North Korea's missile tests have been a cause for concern to the US and its allies like South Korea and Japan. The North's testing of a nuclear weapon last year further exacerbated tensions.

The US placed THAAD systems in Guam and Hawaii to deter incoming North Korean missiles.

However, THAAD in South Korea seeks to protect Seoul and Japan as well.

Can THAAD stop North Korea?

North Korea recently began testing multiple simultaneous ballistic missile launches. A single THAAD system can hold up to 8 interceptors, but the number of simultaneous threats it can engage is classified. However, if Pyongyang fires more than 8 missiles, the system may be overwhelmed.

DetailsWhy do South Koreans oppose THAAD?

Officials say the THAAD in South Korea could be operational by April.

South Korean citizens argue that by placing the system in the country, they make themselves targets, endangering people who live around the deployment sites.

Several demonstrations and protests have also taken place.

South Koreans also allege that the system's presence imposes US foreign policy goals on South Korea.

OppositionChina, Russia against THAAD deployment

Though THAAD is a terminal phase interceptor, THAAD's radars can collect information about enemy ballistic missiles, which it can then relay to NATO and Washington.

China is opposed to its deployment in the Korean peninsula, as it gives the US a strategic advantage over China in the region.

Russia has been opposed to similar plans to deploy the system in Europe.

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China warns of consequences

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said THAAD "severely disrupts regional strategic balance and jeopardizes the strategic security interests of regional countries." He said China "will definitely take necessary measures," adding that the "consequences will be borne by the US and the Republic of Korea."

08 Mar 2017US deploying THAAD in South Korea

02 May 2017THAAD goes online in South Korea

The US's THAAD anti-ballistic missile system has been made operational in South Korea.

Sources said that even though the system is not in full operational capacity yet, it can still take on incoming North Korean missiles now.

Full operational capability would be achieved in a few months.

The THAAD system was placed in South Korea despite protests by citizens against it.