China on Thursday criticized the deployment of new THAAD missile defense system in South Korea which were secretly brought into the country without approval from the government.
Beijing’s foreign ministry spokesperson said the nation is “gravely concerned” over reports about the new THAAD launchers. The official also indicated that the “deployment will severely damage China’s security interests and undermine the regional strategic balance.”
The U.S. military deployed the system in response to North Korean missile threats.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said that it was “very shocking” to learn that his Defense Ministry failed to report to him that an additional four launchers for the THAAD missile shield system have been brought into the country. The new launchers are in addition to two that had already been deployed.
Moon, who took office on May 10, ordered a probe into why he wasn’t informed about the additional THAAD rocket launchers.
As a presidential candidate, Moon sought to delay deployment of THAAD and asked for more discussion on the matter. He also suggested while running that the U.S. could do more harm in the end by rushing the deployment.
That said, Moon insisted Wednesday that he isn’t seeking to reverse the current deployment arrangement between Washington and Seoul, which was reached last July.
Regardless, defense analysts said much is at stake because of the continuing threat from North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs.
Analysts say China opposes THAAD because it believes the advanced anti-missile radar system’s powerful radar gives the U.S. and South Korea capability not only to spot ballistic missiles from North Korea, but to potentially look deep into China to monitor military activities.
The THAAD system, which is made by U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin, went operational in early May at a location about 130 miles south of Seoul. The first launchers for the system arrived in South Korea in March.
There were suggestions at one point that the new launchers were brought into South Korea by the U.S. military without knowledge of the Seoul government. The U.S. Department of Defense, though, rejects the assertion it left Seoul out of the loop on THAAD.