South Koreans Protest Deployment of US Missiles

The US military has started deploying a controversial missile defense system to a site in South Korea while China has launched its first domestically built aircraft carrier
South Koreans Protest   Deployment of US Missiles  South Koreans Protest   Deployment of US Missiles

The US military has started deploying a controversial missile defense system to a site in South Korea, amid high tensions over neighboring North Korea’s nuclear and missile ambitions.

The THAAD system is designed to protect against threats from North Korea. Hundreds of local residents protested against the deployment, as vehicles carrying equipment arrived at the site in the south of the country.

China argues THAAD will destabilize security in the region. The US has in recent days deployed warships and a submarine to the Korean Peninsula, amid fears North Korea could be planning further missile or nuclear tests.

The Trump administration, which has been urging China to rein in Pyongyang, is due to hold a classified briefing for senators on the situation at the White House later on Wednesday.

The Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system is designed to intercept and destroy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles during their final phase of flight.

“South Korea and the United States have been working to secure an early operational capability of the THAAD system in response to North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile threat,” South Korea’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The system, which was agreed last year, is not expected to be operational until the end of 2018, it added.

The development coincides with China launching a new aircraft carrier-the first to be made domestically-in a bid to boost its own military presence in the region.

  Protests at Home

Television footage showed military trailers carrying what appeared to be military defense equipment to a disused golf course some 250 km south of the South Korean capital Seoul on Wednesday morning.

Dozens of police lined the road, trying to block hundreds of protesters, some of whom were hurling water bottles at the vehicles.

More than 10 people were injured in clashes with police, activists said. Many of the protesters were local residents of the two towns closest to the military site. Police were unable to confirm the casualties.

China launched its first domestically built aircraft carrier, burnishing President Xi Jinping’s credentials as commander-in-chief ahead of a Communist Party leadership reshuffle this year.

The warship was floated at a shipyard in the northeastern port of Dalian in a ceremony attended by General Fan Changlong, second only to Xi on the Central Military Commission, according to a statement on the Ministry of National Defense’s website.

The aircraft carrier program lies at the heart of China’s effort to build a “blue water” navy capable of projecting power beyond the country’s coast and protecting increasingly far-flung interests.

Xi has made overhauling and modernizing the People’s Liberation Army a centerpiece of his agenda since taking power in 2012.

The aircraft carrier—the second in an estimated fleet of as many as six such ships—was based on the design of Liaoning, a Soviet vessel China bought from Ukraine, refitted and put to sea almost six years ago. Launching the carrier allows Xi to tout a historic milestone before he presides over the ruling party’s twice-a-decade congress, in which roughly half of its Central Committee is expected to be replaced.

The new carrier, known for now as Type 001A, is being built by the state-owned China Shipbuilding Industry Corp.

Construction of a third is already underway by China State Shipbuilding Corp. at the Jiangnan shipyard near Shanghai. Defense analysts at military-affiliated research groups have told state media that the country needs at least three more.

The launch came as the region’s long-dominant naval power, the US, deployed a strike group led by the nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson to the Western Pacific in response to tensions around North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

China’s first two carriers—limited by their ski-jump decks, diesel propulsion systems and limited overseas bases—pose little challenge to the US’ supercarriers.

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