South Korea has been divided over whether to deploy a sophisticated U.S. missile defense system in its territory on worries about the expected escalation of regional tensions and an unproven plausibility of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), both militarily and environmentally.
The rocket launch, which Pyongyang claimed was part of a peaceful space program, but which Seoul and Washington denounced as a test of banned ballistic missile technology, followed the DPRK’s fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6, the first of its disputed H-bomb test.
Experts opposing the THAAD were skeptical about its operational effectiveness in South Korea as it is one of the most advanced missile defense systems in the world but falls short of shielding the country from hundreds of shorter-range DPRK missiles that can fall on the entire South Korea in several minutes.
Controversy over an environmental effect remained as the THAAD’s radar emits super-strong microwaves doing harm to human bodies and paralyzing electronic devices.
Seoul’s defense ministry has claimed that the THAAD is not targeting China or any other country except the DPRK, but its radar will help U.S. troops in South Korea naturally spot missiles in some regions of China and Russia bordering the DPRK.
Seeing a rise in demand for the U.S. anti-missile system among South Korea’s ruling party lawmakers as a sign of imminent deployment, Russian Ambassador to South Korea Alexander Timonin expressed opposition to the U.S. air defense system in early February.
The THAAD issue caused mixed reactions among South Korean politicians. Lee Jong-Geol, floor leader of the main opposition Minju Party, appeared in a program of local broadcaster MBC on Sunday, saying that his party hasn’t opposed to discussions on the THAAD deployment “unconditionally.”
“What’s important is that China and Russia is thinking of the THAAD as a strategy toward them, not toward North Korea (DPRK),” said Lee.
-More at Xinhua