In the midst of annual military drills with the U.S., South Korea received an anti-ballistic missile defense system from Washington, which the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, DPRK, warned could lead to an “actual war” Tuesday.
The DPRK diplomat Ju Yong Choi told the United Nations-backed Conference on Disarmament that the belligerent exercises were "a major cause of escalation of tension that might turn into actual war."
The war games are an annual menace to the region, courtesy of the U.S., which waged a war against the unified peninsula in 1950, ultimately fracturing the country in two and stationing U.S. soldiers in what is called the Demilitarized Zone.
South Korea and the United States agreed last year to install the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, which China, the DPRK’s main ally, has repeatedly denounced as a threat to its security, saying Tuesday it will take “necessary measures” to protect itself and warning that the U.S. and South Korea should be prepared to bear the consequences.
People in South Korea took to the streets to protest the land swap agreement for hosting the U.S.'s anti-missile system. Residents living near the host site had also filed a lawsuit against the Republic of Korea Defense Ministry.
Deployment of the THAAD system "contributes to a layered missile defense system and enhances the U.S.-ROK (Republic of Korea) Alliance's defense against North Korean missile threats," the U.S. Pacific Command said in a statement Monday.
Washington sought to downplay the deployment, telling China the defense system did not pose a threat to China, "We have been very clear in our conversations with China that this is not meant to be a threat, and is not a threat, to them or any other power in the region," state department spokesman Mark Toner said at a news briefing.
But China's Ambassador Fu Cong said during the disarmament forum that Beijing firmly opposed the deployment of THAAD and that “all parties concerned should work together for the denuclearization of the (Korean) peninsula and its peace and stability."
The system is meant to intercept and destroy short and medium-range ballistic missiles during their final phase of flight.