Can THAAD Batteries Protect Seoul?

  • By Yu Yong-weon

    July 11, 2016 11:28

    If the U.S. Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense batteries are deployed in the southern part of South Korea, as sources say, they would not protect Seoul and the metropolitan area from North Korean missile attacks.

    The Defense Ministry claims that the purpose of the THAAD batteries would be to protect not only U.S. troops and equipment but South Koreans from a North Korean missile attack.

    But if the capital region and Pyeongtaek and Osan to the south are excluded from their protective umbrella, that would be a misleading claim.

    Military sources explained that the THAAD would require U.S. money and therefore needs to protect American troops rather than the residents of Seoul and Gyeonggi Province.

    U.S. Patriot missiles already deployed here are also aimed at protecting American troops stationed in Osan, Gunsan and Oegwan.

    Experts say it makes more strategic sense to deploy the THAAD batteries far south of the heavily armed border with North Korea since Seoul and surrounding Gyeonggi Province are more vulnerable to attacks by North Korean Scud missiles, which Patriot missiles can handle.

    But the southern region and its major ports of Busan and Jinhae would be the points of access for major U.S. troop and equipment deliveries in the event of a war, and subject to attack from the North's Scud-ER and Rodong missiles.

    Patriot missiles are no effective defense against those, so the THAAD would have a more significant part to play there.

    This has raised speculation that the U.S. could deploy another THAAD battery later to protect the capital if North Korea's nuclear missile threat intensifies and once China and Russia have gotten used to their presence here.

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