US tells China that anti-missile system not a threat

South Koreans shout "No THAAD Deployment" slogans at a rally against the government's defence policy in Seoul, on July 21, 2016.
South Koreans shout "No THAAD Deployment" slogans at a rally against the government's defence policy in Seoul, on July 21, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

BEIJING (REUTERS) - South Korea's decision to deploy an advanced United States anti-missile defence system does not threaten China's security, a senior US administration official said on Tuesday (July 26) at the end of a visit to China by US National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

The announcement by South Korea and the United States this month that they would deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) unit has already drawn protests from China that it would destabilise regional security.

The decision is the latest move to squeeze increasingly isolated North Korea, but China worries the system's radar will be able to track its military capabilities. Russia also opposes the deployment.

"It is purely a defensive measure. It is not aimed at any other party other than North Korea and the threat it poses and this defensive weapons system is neither designed nor capable of threatening China's security interests," the official told reporters on a conference call.

South Korea and the United States have said THAAD would only be used in defence against North Korean ballistic missiles.

North Korea has launched a series of missiles in recent months, the latest last week when it fired three ballistic missiles in what it said was a simulated test of preemptive strikes against South Korean ports and airfields used by the US military.

The missiles flew 500-600km into the sea off its east coast and could have hit anywhere in South Korea if the North intended, the South's military said.

North Korea came under the latest round of UN Security Council sanctions in March after its fourth nuclear test in January and the launch of a long-range rocket the following month.

Rice also emphasised the importance of all sides implementing UN sanctions on North Korea, and was pleased that China said it remained committed to their implementation, said the senior US official who declined to be identified.