National Security Must Be Top Priority in Missile Defense

Russia on Friday voiced opposition against the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea, claiming it would "inevitably have a negative impact on the strategic situation in the region and could provoke an arms race in Northeast Asia."

China's Xinhua News Agency also said recently that THAAD deployment in South Korea would "sacrifice" Seoul-Beijing relations.

The U.S. sought to ease concerns, saying the THAAD is aimed the North Korean missile threat, but Beijing suspects that the real aim is to keep China's growing military might in check.

The THAAD system consists of an X-band radar capable of detecting missiles 1,800 km above the ground and taking them down at a height of between 40 to 150 km. South Koreans who are sympathetic to North Korea have claimed that the system is incapable of thwarting the North's nuclear missile threat and would end up damaging Seoul's relations with Beijing and Moscow. Some say that THAAD would lock South Korea into the U.S.-led missile defense system.

To state things simply, Seoul is in no position to be picky. South Korea is the only country that faces a direct threat to its survival from North Korea's nuclear weapons. If the North soon succeeds in deploying nuclear-tipped missiles along its frontline, the South will face an even greater threat. As a result, the top priority must be to come up with ways to effectively block the threat. Political and diplomatic concerns come next.

At present, the missile-defense system Seoul is preparing would be capable of destroying North Korean missiles only in their final stage of descent. That means there are no second chances when it comes to shooting them down. In these circumstances, any country would see it as its top priority to shoot down incoming missiles in their ascent, mid-flight as well as their descent. THAAD is the only option for shooting down North Korean missiles in mid-flight.

It is also technically impossible for THAAD missiles to intercept missiles fired toward the U.S. from China and Russia. They cannot track and intercept missiles that are fired way north of South Korea, i.e. missiles from either China or Russia, the Defense Ministry has pointed out.

The government and military must not get distracted and focus solely on ways to protect the lives of South Koreans.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jul. 28, 2014 13:35 KST