South Korea speeds up deployment of US missile defence Thaad after North’s latest ICBM test

This handout photo taken on July 29, 2017, and provided by South Korean Defence Ministry in Seoul shows US Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) firing a missile into the East Sea from an undisclosed location on South Korea's east coast during a Sout
This handout photo taken on July 29, 2017, and provided by South Korean Defence Ministry in Seoul shows US Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) firing a missile into the East Sea from an undisclosed location on South Korea's east coast during a South Korea-US joint missile drill aimed to counter North Korea’s ICBM test.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (AFP, REUTERS) - The South Korean and US military staged a joint ballistic missile exercise in response to the latest intercontinental missile launch by North Korea, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported on Saturday (July 28), without citing sources.

The test has also prompted the South to speed up the deployment of a US missile defence system despite strong protests from China, Seoul’s defence 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 defence 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 programme 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, Defence Minister Song Young Moo told journalists.  

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 kilometres (187.5 miles) south of Seoul.

China has been notified of the move to speed up the deployment, the South’s presidential Blue House said.  

China’s Foreign Ministry expressed serious concern over the move. The deployment will not resolve South Korea’s security concerns and will only make things more complex, the ministry said, reiterating a Chinese call for the system to be withdrawn. 

The developments came hours after North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile late on Friday. Experts said it was capable of reaching cities in the United States, and US and South Korean military officials responded by discussing military options.