July 20, 2016 09:20
North Korea fired three short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea early Tuesday morning, six days after South Korea and the U.S. decided to deploy a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery here.
The move appears aimed at intensifying jitters in South Korea over the THAAD deployment.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff on Tuesday said the missiles flew about 500 to 600 km, far enough to strike any targets in South Korea including the far southern port city of Busan.
The U.S. Strategic Command said the first two missiles were Scuds with a range of between 300 to 500 km while the third was a Rodong missile with a range of 1,300 km.
Last Monday North Korea warned of a "physical response" to the THAAD deployment once the battery's location has been determined.
North Korea is believed to have around 600 Scud and 200 Rodong missiles. Some skeptics have said that the Scud's low trajectory and short flight time would make it impossible for THAAD to intercept, and that the 48 interceptor missiles in the arsenal of a single THAAD battery are not enough to stop 1,000 North Korean ballistic missiles.
But a military spokesman here said, "If the THAAD battery is deployed, it will form a multi-layered interception system along with Patriot missiles and be able to effectively block the North's missile attacks."
THAAD is effective in intercepting missiles at an altitude of 40 to 150 km, while Patriots are designed to intercept missiles 10 to 40 km above the surface. The spokesman added, "THAAD's role is to give us time to prepare for a full-fledged retaliation."
Choi Kang, a researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said, "If the THAAD battery is useless against North Korea's missile threat, the North would have no reason to react so sensitively."
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