Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

THAAD defence system

Note4Students

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.
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