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On Monday morning, four missiles were launched into the Sea of Japan. The country’s official news agency KCNA stated the launch was an exercise, run by an army unit tasked with a potential attack on US bases in Japan.
According to the agency, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un personally supervised the drill. This event is likely to be a form of retaliation as the White House has said it will station advanced THAAD anti-missile technology to South Korea.
Pyeongchang views this as a threat against North Korea and has issued warnings of retaliation against the US. President Trump has spoken to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and pledged the full support of Japan, according to Abe as cited by Reuters. In a closed session scheduled for Wednesday morning, the UN Security Council will discuss these exercise launches by North Korea. The session was called for by the US, Japan, and South Korea.
The White House intends to go ahead with their plan to station THAAD missile defense in South Korea. Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters on Monday that “the Trump administration is taking steps to enhance our ability to defend against North Korea’s ballistic missiles, such as through the deployment of a THAAD battery to South Korea.” Harry Harris, US Pacific Commander Admiral, stated on Tuesday that the deployment was already in progress.
The US already has a large amount of defensive capability in the region and has been planning for about nine months to expand it with THAAD technology. The THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) system is intended to be used against short and medium range missiles. Lockheed Martin developed the system, which uses infrared technology to intercept the missiles as they start their descent.
China has expressed their strong opposition to these plans, as Beijing consider them to be undermining their own defense. Beijing expressed concern that the THAAD system will also be capable of functioning as a warning to other US missile defense system. As a reaction, China has announced instructions to limit tourist travel to South Korea, as well as sanctions against the business group that forfeited land for the installation.