by Compiled from Wire Services
Mar 08, 2017 12:00 am
North Korea faced a chorus of condemnation yesterday for its latest ballistic missile tests but declared that ongoing joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises were aimed at conducting a "pre-emptive nuclear attack" against Pyongyang.
Ju Yong Choi, a North Korean diplomat, told the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament in Geneva that the "massive, unprecedented" joint drills were "a major cause of escalation of tension that might turn into actual war".
U.S. missile launchers and other equipment needed to set up a controversial missile defense system have arrived in South Korea, the U.S. and South Korean militaries said yesterday, a day after North Korea test-launched four ballistic missiles into the ocean near Japan.
The plans to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, within this year have angered not only North Korea, but also China and Russia, which see the system's powerful radars as a security threat.
China responded quickly, saying it will take "necessary measures" to protect itself and warning that the U.S. and South Korea should be prepared to bear the consequences.
Washington and Seoul say the system is defensive and not meant to be a threat to Beijing or Moscow. The U.S. military said in a statement that THAAD can intercept and destroy short and medium range ballistic missiles during the last part of their flights.
"Continued provocative actions by North Korea, to include yesterday's launch of multiple missiles, only confirm the prudence of our alliance decision last year to deploy THAAD to South Korea," Adm. Harry Harris, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, said in the statement.
Some South Korean liberal presidential candidates have said that the security benefits of having THAAD would be curtailed by worsened relations with neighbors China and Russia.
"China firmly opposes the deployment of THAAD," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular briefing Tuesday. "We will definitely be taking necessary measures to safeguard our own security interest. All consequences entailed from that will be borne by the U.S. and (South Korea). We once again strongly urge the relevant sides to stop the process of deployment and refrain from going further down that wrong path."
China's condemnation of South Korea's plans to deploy THAAD has triggered protests against a South Korean retail giant, Lotte, which agreed to provide one of its golf courses in southern South Korea as the site of THAAD. The South Korean government also raised concerns about a reported ban on Chinese tour groups visiting the country.