US sets up missile defense in S. Korea as North shows power

Over objections from China, protestors, US moving THAAD defense parts

Over objections from China, protestors, US moving THAAD defense parts

A US missile defense system that is being established in South Korea to defend against any North Korean attack should be operational in the coming days, Admiral Harry Harris, the top USA commander in the Asia-Pacific, told Congress on Wednesday.

US Pacific Command chief Adm. Harry Harris told the House Armed Services Committee that the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system would be "operational in the coming days to be able to better defend South Korea against the growing North Korea threat".

North Korea conducted live-fire artillery drills and a USA guided-missile submarine arrived in South Korea on Tuesday, as the Trump administration prepared an extraordinary White House briefing for senators on the escalating nuclear threat.

South Korean defence ministry officials and US military officials could not immediately be reached for confirmation. An unnamed Foreign Ministry spokesman said the USA administration's policy to maximize pressure on North Korea was "little short of lighting the fuse of total war", the state news agency reported Tuesday.

The frontrunner in South Korea's May 9 presidential election has called for a delay in THAAD deployment, saying the new administration should make a decision after gathering public opinion and more talks with Washington.

"China strongly urges the US and South Korea to stop actions that would raise regional tensions as well as harm China's strategic and security interests by canceling the THAAD deployment and withdrawing relevant equipment".

South Korea's navy has said it plans to hold a joint drill with the USA strike group late this month. Russian Federation also sees the system's powerful radars as a security threat.

"Presidential candidate Moon Jae-in has consistently stated that the deployment of THAAD should be decided by the next government through taking into account sufficient public consultation, consensus and consideration of our national interests and the ROK-US alliance", a statement released by Moon's spokesman, Park Kwang-on, read.

CNN's Will Ripley reports from Pyongyang on the growing tension between the U.S. and North Korea. About 200 residents and protesters rallied against THAAD in front of a local community center, some hurling plastic water bottles. According to the Yonhap news agency, the parts include two or three launchers, intercept missiles and radar.

A police official in Seongju, a town where THAAD is located, said police had pulled out from the location, and was unaware of the report on the injuries.

The missile system has angered North Korea and also drawn sharp opposition from China, which sees it as a threat to its own security.

"There's still time for THAAD to be actually up and running so we will fight until equipment is withdrawn from the site and ask South Korea's new government to reconsider", Kim told Reuters by telephone.

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North Korea often marks significant dates by displaying its military capability and has conducted five nuclear tests. A pre-emptive strike, he said, "would be the last one".

The statement from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats described North Korea as "an urgent national security threat and top foreign policy priority". The leader has previously spoken of striking USA cities, and this week, North Korea threatened to sink the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier.

North Korea routinely accuses the United States of readying for an invasion, and threatens pre-emptive strikes to stop it.

"It is a wild dream for the U.S. to think of depriving the DPRK of its nuclear deterrent through military threat and sanctions".

North Korea conducted live-fire artillery drills on Tuesday, the 85th anniversary of the founding of its million-person Korean People's Army.

DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.

Earlier on Wednesday, North Korea's foreign ministry called US attempts to make Pyongyang give up its nuclear weapons through military threats and sanctions "a wild dream" and like "sweeping the sea with a broom".

Japan's Foreign Ministry also announced that China's envoy for North Korea, Wu Dawei, is arriving in Tokyo on Tuesday for talks with Kanasugi, which may take place later this week.

"We are against anything that might lead to war or chaos", Mr. Wu said.

The drill came instead of a nuclear test or the launch of a long-range missile as feared amid pressure from the United States and China, its sole major ally which has been irritated by Pyongyang's weapons development.

"The courageous artillerymen mercilessly and satisfactorily hit the targets and the gunshots were very correct, he said, adding that they showed well the volley of gunfire of our a-match-for-a-hundred artillery force giving merciless punishment to the hostile forces", KCNA cited Kim as saying.