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Defense Minister says THAAD deployment needs consideration

All News 18:44 January 25, 2016

SEOUL, Jan. 25 (Yonhap) -- Defense Minister Han Min-koo said Monday South Korea needs to consider the deployment of the U.S.' advanced defense system THAAD, reflecting growing security threats from North Korea's emerging nuclear and missile capabilities.

"Speaking from the military's perspective, there's enough need to review it because our (defense) capabilities are limited," the defense minister said during his appearance in a news program by MBC, a mainstream broadcasting channel.

"The issue of THAAD should be considered from the defense and security standpoints," Han noted.

The rare defense for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system by the defense chief reflects growing security uncertainties following North Korea's recent nuclear test.

The North said on Jan. 6 it conducted a hydrogen bomb test. The outside world suspects the test may have been a traditional atomic bomb or a boosted fission bomb, but, nonetheless, the test showed the communist country is advancing its nuclear capability.

The U.S. has reportedly been seeking the deployment of THAAD in South Korea, but Seoul has officially maintained that nothing has been decided, a stance taken to fend off China's protest.

Touching on North Korea's submarine-launched ballistic missile capability, Han said North Korea may deploy SLBMs for combat use in about three to four years or even earlier.

"North Korea is at the stage of completing the underwater ejection test," Han said, referring to the four stages of SLBM development: the tests of above-the-ground ejection, underwater ejection, flight and field deployment.

"For other countries it took three to four years to deploy (SLBMs) after underwater ejection tests, but it could happen more quickly if the North musters every possible effort," according to Han.

The North was reported to have conducted its latest SLBM ejection test in December.

The North is predicted to launch a variety of military provocations going forward, on which the North is relying for the consolidation of internal unity as the country is pushing for both nuclear and economic development, the minister said.

"On the strategic level, the North could conduct more nuclear tests of missile launches and on the tactical front, it could launch military provocations on frontline islands and military outposts or terrorist acts in regions in the back," he said.

pbr@yna.co.kr
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