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The THAAD Conundrum.

The United States began installation of its highly controversial anti-missile system in South Korea amidst fears of an impending North Korean attack. The anti-missile defense system known as THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) is the most advance anti-missile system on earth. It consists of a truck mounted launcher and transportable radar system communication centers. THAAD hunts and blasts incoming missiles. It uses Kinetic energy hence can meet targets head on and destroys them. THAAD is unmatched in precision and mobility and currently has a 100% success rate although this figure is not expected to stand in a real combat scenario as it will likely be overwhelmed by rockets from opposing sides.

 

Though the presence of such a defense system might seem innocuous at first there are genuine concerns that it might cause more harm than good. Regional power, China claims that THAAD could be used to spy into its territory with its powerful X-band radar system which has sufficient range to penetrate into China thus enabling it to spot Chinese missile launches and this puts the Chinese at a strategic disadvantage. This has led to unofficial sanctions on South Korea businesses from Beijing as several of Lotte’s stores had been closed down suddenly which is likely in retaliation for Lotte’s deal which allows the installation of THAAD on one of its properties. Also there has been cancellations of several pop concerts and shows of South Korean artists in China.

Russia believes the introduction of THAAD could lead to a destructive arms race with no end in view. The Kremlin also voiced concerns that the anti-missile system could pose a threat to the existing military balance in the region. On the home front, the election of President Moon Jae-in coincides with rising displeasure among South Koreans that THAAD could lead to increased insecurity in the areas where the launchers are located as the local residents could become targets in case of an attack on the THAAD. There are also rising concerns on the impact of the radiation emitted on the health of those living around the THAAD locations. President Trump did not help matters when he rattled feathers earlier by claiming that South Korea will be made to pay for the launchers which he estimates at about 1 billion dollars.

President Moon who has taken a more conciliatory tone with its North Korean neighbors even suggesting that he would be open to a meeting in Pyongyang which is break from the hardline stance of the previous administration. Mr Moon recently stopped the installation of four additional launchers citing the need to conduct an environmental assessment which will last for at least one year. This decision carries with it hidden risks as it leaves them defenseless in case of as an attack against. It suddenly seems more like the United States is more interested in the installation of the THAAD than the South Koreans.

 

By: Abiodun Ogunsanya

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