From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : THAAD defence system
Mains level : THAAD and its features to define geopolitics
China has issued a statement reiterating its long-standing objections to the presence of the US THAAD missile defence system in South Korea.
Try this question from CSP 2018:
Q. What is “Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD)”, sometimes seen in the news?
(a) An Israeli radar system
(b) India’s indigenous anti-missile programme
(c) An American anti-missile system
(d) A defence collaboration between Japan and South Korea
What is THAAD?
- THAAD is an acronym for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, a transportable, ground-based missile defence system.
- It is coupled with space-based and ground-based surveillance stations, which transfer data about the incoming missile and informs the THAAD interceptor missile of the threat type classification.
- THAAD is alarmed about incoming missiles by space-based satellites with infrared sensors.
- This anti-ballistic missile defence system has been designed and manufactured by the US company Lockheed Martin. South Korea is not the only country with the THAAD missile defence system.
- It has been previously deployed in the UAE, Guam, Israel and Romania.
The South Korea-China controversy over THAAD
- In South Korea, the THAAD missile defence system is operated by the US army stationed in the country.
- The US had previously announced that the deployment of this missile defence system was a countermeasure against potential attacks by North Korea, particularly after the country had engaged in testing ballistic missiles.
- In 2017, matters escalated in the Korean Peninsula after North Korea test-fired a few missiles in the direction of US bases in Japan.
- Following this incident, the US amended its plans and moved the systems to its army base in Osan, South Korea while the final deployment site was being prepared.
- These moves by the US and by extension, South Korea, particularly angered China.
China’s reservations against THAAD
- China’s opposition has little to do with the missiles itself and is more about the system’s inbuilt advanced radar systems that could track China’s actions.
- The controversy also has much to do with the geopolitics and complex conflicts in East Asia, with the US having a presence in the region particularly through its many military bases in Japan and South Korea.
- According to some observers of East Asia, China believes the US exerts influence over South Korea and Japan and may interfere with Beijing’s long-term military, diplomatic and economic interests in the region.
- The US and South Korea have consistently maintained that these missiles are only to counter potential threats by North Korea.
- South Korea also issued a statement saying the number of missiles had not increased but had only been replaced with newer versions.