USA missile shield is powerless against politics

US Pacific Command chief Adm. Harry Harris told the House Armed Services Committee that the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system would be "operational in the coming days to be able to better defend South Korea against the growing North Korea threat".

South Korea said in a statement Wednesday that unspecified parts of THAAD were installed.

Harris said that he was taking Kim Jong Un at his word that the North Korean leader is determined to develop a long-range nuclear missile that could strike the U.S. and that should "provide us all a sense of urgency" to ensure United States forces in the Pacific are prepared.

The Trump administration has taken the unusual step of calling the entire US Senate to a meeting at the White House, for a briefing on North Korea with the US secretaries of Defense and State.

"We want to bring Kim Jong Un to his senses, not to his knees", Harris said. However the move has angered China, which says the advanced system will do little to deter the North while destabilising the regional security balance.

On Tuesday, a USA submarine - the USS Michigan - joined a group of warships in the Korean peninsula led by aircraft carrier the USS Carl Vinson.

North Korea's long-range artillery drills were conducted near Wonsan, along the country's east coast, according to the South Korean military. President Donald Trump's secretary of state, defense secretary, top general and national intelligence director were to outline for them the North's escalating nuclear capabilities and US response options, officials said.

He added that the THAAD equipment is now in "field deployment" at the former golf course which South Korea offered to USFK, with the allies conducting a joint environmental effect survey of the new military base under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

In the past two weeks, Trump has ordered high-powered USA military vessels, including an aircraft carrier, to the region in a show of force to deter North Korea from more nuclear and missile tests.

The United States began moving the first elements of the advanced missile defence system into South Korea in early March after the North test-launched four ballistic missiles.

Just hours before Harris spoke, United States troops in South Korea began deploying a contentious anti-missile system in South Korea that has infuriated China. They coincided with military maneuvers by the United States and its allies, as well as the arrival of the MI, a submarine armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, in the port city of Busan, South Korea.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters Thaad "severely undermines China's strategic security interests".

"We agreed to warn North Korea to stop any additional strategic provocation and take intolerably strong punitive measures against Pyongyang if it goes ahead with such provocations", Kim Hong-kyun told reporters following his meeting with Joseph Yun of the USA and Japan's Kenji Kanasugi.

"That's my fault on the confusion and I'll take the hit for it", Harris said.

The U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, Joseph Yun, on Tuesday agreed with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts in Tokyo that the three nations would "coordinate all actions" on North Korea.

North Korea routinely accuses the United States of readying for an invasion, and threatens pre-emptive strikes to stop it.

Here's a look at how THAAD works and why it became a debated issue in South Korea.

On Monday, US President Donald Trump said the status quo with nuclear-armed North Korea was unacceptable, calling for new sanctions on the country.

"Our great leaders founded and wisely led our revolutionary army, and just like that, now our respected Marshal Kim Jong Un is leading wisely, so even though the situation is tense, we are celebrating the day", said Choe Un Byol, who came with his family to the bronze statues of the former leaders.

In addition to holding joint naval exercises in the Yellow Sea, the United States and South Korea have been staging military maneuvers in Pocheon, northeast of Seoul, demonstrating some of their latest weapons.

Mr Trump's top national security advisers said they were "open to negotiations" with the North, though they gave no indication of when or under what circumstances.

  • Leroy Wright