Washington intends deploying so-called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile systems in South Korea.
They’re designed to intercept and down short, medium and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in their terminal phase. Instead of warheads, they rely on impact kinetic energy to destroy incoming missiles.
Claiming they won’t detonate ones with nuclear weapons is highly doubtful. A similar navy program is called the sea-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System. Aegis ashore is land-based.
South Koreans oppose THAADs, fearful of potential hazardous radiation and areas where they’ll be deployed targeted in case of war.
Anti-THAAD protests were held since Washington and Seoul announced the plan last July, a target date not given.
Both governments claim THAADs are to protect against possible North Korean missile attacks. Throughout its post-WW II history, Pyongyang never attacked another country.
In June 1950, it responded to Truman’s aggression, initially using South Korea’s military as a provocative proxy force.
Deploying THAADs is more about targeting Russia and China than North Korea. Moscow expressed concern, saying THAADs in South Korea “do not correspond to their stated goals and threaten to deal serious damage to the strategic security of neighboring countries, including China and Russia, and worsen the situation in the country.”
Beijing issued a similar statement, stressing “(t)he THAAD deployment…does no good (for) peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.
US Defense Secretary Mattis lied, saying THAADs will be deployed in response to Pyongyang’s “provocative behavior.”
Their radar capability lets Washington monitor regional activities. According Center for Korean Studies at the Institute of Far Eastern Studies chief research fellow Konstantin Asmolov:
THAAD radar can be quickly reconfigured to a mode where it will act as a sensor to detect the launch of ballistic missiles within a radius of up to two thousand kilometers, which allows for a significant part of China and the Russian Far East to be monitored and can be used as a part of a global ABM defense system of the USA.”
“It is no coincidence that besides South Korea, THAAD is also placed on Guam and in Alaska.”
They’re designed to down missiles at altitudes ranging from 40 to 150 km. North Korean missiles fly at a lower altitude of about 20 km, showing Washington’s deployment (likely by summer) mainly targets China and Russia’s far east.
In January, Moscow and Beijing announced “unspecified” measures to counter their deployment, warning of escalating tensions and instigating an arms race.
Last December, Trump tweeted America “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”
The next day on MSNBC, he said “(l)et if be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all” – spoken like a warrior, not a peacemaker.