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S. Korea speeds up US missile shield in wake of North’s test

Seoul also warns Pyongyang its own ballistic missiles can strike northern neighbor at ‘any time and any place’

Trucks carrying US missile launchers and other equipment needed to set up the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system arrive at the Osan air base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, Monday, March 6, 2017. (US Force Korea via AP)
Trucks carrying US missile launchers and other equipment needed to set up the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system arrive at the Osan air base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, Monday, March 6, 2017. (US Force Korea via AP)

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea’s latest intercontinental ballistic missile test has prompted the South to speed up the deployment of a US missile defense system despite strong protests from China, Seoul’s defense minister said Saturday.

The US military will also roll out “strategic assets” to the South following the North’s missile test late Friday, he said.

Parts of the THAAD defense system were brought into the country under the government of ousted president Park Geun-hye, but new leader Moon Jae-in suspended deployment of the program last month, citing the need for a new environmental impact assessment.

“We will soon start consultations on the tentative deployment” of the remaining components of the THAAD battery in response to Pyongyang’s most recent test, Defense Minister Song Young-moo told journalists.

South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-Moo speaks during a briefing at the defense ministry in Seoul following a North Korean missile test on July 29, 2017.(AFP PHOTO/Yonhap/Stringer)
South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo speaks during a briefing at the defense ministry in Seoul following a North Korean missile test on July 29, 2017. (AFP/Yonhap/Stringer)

The THAAD battery is composed of six interceptor missile launchers. Two launchers have been tentatively deployed at a golf course-turned-US military base in Seongju County, some 300 kilometers (187.5 miles) south of Seoul.

A senior official at the presidential Blue House said Seoul had also informed Beijing of the decision.

The THAAD deployment has infuriated China, which argues that it will destabilize the region.

Song also said the US will send “strategic assets” to the Korean peninsula and the surrounding area, without providing further details.

Strategic assets normally refer to high-profile weapons systems, such as stealth bombers and aircraft carriers.

The South’s defense ministry also released a video of a newly developed ballistic missile which it said was one of the world’s “most accurate and powerful” weapons and capable of striking “any target in the North at any time and any place.”

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