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US' missile defence interceptor arrives in South Korea to counter North's threat

This handout photo taken on November 1, 2015 and received by the US Department of Defense/Missile Defense Agency shows a terminal interceptor being launched. Photograph: (AFP)

AFP Seoul, South Korea Apr 25, 2017, 10.52 PM (IST)

The United States has started installing the controversial THAAD missile defence equipment in South Korea, as Washington's relations with North Korea remains on a knife edge.

Yonhap, South Korea's largest news agency, reported that six trailers carrying the THAAD missile had entered a golf course in South Korea on Wednesday morning.

The deployment of the advanced missile defence system in South Korea is to counter any threat from Pyongyang, who have thumbed nose at a series of sanctions to go ahead with their ballistic missile programme.

North Korea has also been vocal about their plan to conduct their sixth nuclear weapons test.

South Korea's defence ministry said the THAAD will be fully operational by the end of 2017.

South Korea and the US decided to position the THAAD weeks back following an increasingly bellicose rhetoric emanating from Pyongyang.

The THAAD system is meant to intercept and destroy short and medium-range ballistic missiles during their final phase of flight.

Controversial THAAD

Although THAAD will ease South Korea's security, China has been a vocal critic of the advanced missile interceptor.

Beijing feels the deployment of THAAD not only enables US' presence in the region, the defence system will also help Washington monitor and disrupt their missile tests.

China has long been against the deployment of THAAD in the region, but South Korea's decision to install it amid the sabre-rattling of their neighbours has angered Beijing.

In recent days, China has not only put an unofficial sanction on South Korean companies operating in their country, its hackers linked to "military and intelligence agencies" have "launched a variety of attacks against the South Korea's government, military and a big conglomerate", according to a report in the Journal.

Local unrest

The deployment has also raised concerns among locals.

Residents of Seongju county in South Korea and the police clashed with each other over the deployment of THAAD in one of the region's golf courses.

The residents have been against the positioning of THAAD there because they believe it would infuriate North leader Kim Jong-Un and would prompt him to attack them.

They also cite environmental concerns.

On Wednesday, all hands were on the deck for the police as they had to contend with about 8,000 angry residents. The police had to call for back-up as scuffles erupted between the two factions.

US offensive

The United States has deployed an aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson to the western Pacific.

Trump has indicated he is willing to ramp up US military pressure on North Korea while simultaneously encouraging China to use its influence on its ally, and reject bilateral diplomacy with Pyongyang.

The US has long pushed for China to make more efforts to curb Pyongyang's behaviour.

But Beijing has resisted, concerned that a regime collapse could trigger a flood of refugees across the border and leave the US military on its doorstep.

Chinese President Xi Jinping called Monday for "restraint" regarding North Korea in a telephone conversation with Trump.

US defence leaders and other top officials are to give a classified briefing on North Korea to all senators in an unusual meeting at the White House later Wednesday.

(WION with inputs from AFP)

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