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U.S. And South Korea Announce Missile Defense System

United States and South Korean defense forces announced an advanced missile defense system to be used in the instance of attack from North Korea. The move quickly drew criticism from nearby China, which maintains relationships with the North.

The so-called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, is a response to North Korea's continued testing of ballistic missile technology in spite of a United Nations ban, according to a joint statement.

The system "will be focused solely on North Korea and will contribute to a layered missile defense that would enhance the Alliance's existing missile defense capabilities against North Korean missile threats," the statement says.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency reports a site for the system will be announced in the coming weeks.

The North's longtime ally, China, was quick to declare opposition to the system, with some officials reported to say it would destabilize security in the region.

"China strongly urges the United States and South Korea to stop the deployment process of the THAAD anti-missile system, not take any steps to complicate the regional situation and do nothing to harm China's strategic security interests," according to a Foreign Ministry statement quoted by Reuters.

Chinese state media too expressed skepticism over what they claim are discrepancies between THAAD's purported capabilities and the South's defense needs, in a news analysis in Xinhua:

"The X-band radar can spot missile as far as 2,000 km with forward-based mode and 600 km with terminal mode. As the two have the same hardware, the terminal mode, which South Korea allegedly plans to adopt, can be transformed into the radar with a much longer detectable range."

Though China and North Korea have strong economic and regional ties, the former joined the U.S. and other countries in toughening up sanctions and resolutions against the North this past spring.

Last month, North Korea tested two ballistic missiles. The first failed and the second reached a range of 250 miles before falling into the Sea of Japan.

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Jason Slotkin