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(LEAD) Russia expresses 'serious concern' over THAAD decision

All Headlines 16:42 July 08, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with details from 3rd para; ADDS photo, byline)
By Lee Haye-ah

SEOUL, July 8 (Yonhap) -- Russia on Friday expressed "very serious concern" over the decision by South Korea and the United States to deploy an advanced missile defense system on South Korean soil.

In a statement, Russia's foreign ministry said the decision came "despite strong and persistent opposition of the Russian side and a number of other countries."

Hours earlier, Seoul and Washington formally announced their decision to place a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery in South Korea in response to North Korea's evolving nuclear and missile threats.

Formal negotiations for the deployment had begun shortly after the North fired a long-range rocket in February. In January, the communist nation also conducted its fourth nuclear test.

"The U.S. and South Korea have reached an agreement on the placement of the American THAAD missile defense system on the territory of the Republic of Korea," the statement said. "This step causes us to have very serious concern."

Russia and China have long expressed opposition to the THAAD deployment, viewing it as a threat to their security interests.

Seoul and Washington have insisted the missile shield is aimed only at defending their people from North Korea's nuclear and missile provocations. The U.S. Defense Department said Friday the THAAD system "would not be directed towards any third party nations," apparently referring to China and Russia.

"The United States, with the support of its allies, continues to build the capacity of the Asia-Pacific segment of the global missile defense system, which tends to undermine the existing strategic balance in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond," the Russian statement said. "Such actions ... have the most negative impact on global strategic stability, which Washington so likes to discuss a commitment to."

The THAAD deployment will escalate tensions in the region and create new problems for resolving complex issues on the Korean Peninsula, including its denuclearization, it argued.

"We hope that our partners, given the difficult balance of power in the region, will be able to once again weigh all the circumstances and avoid ill-considered actions that could result in tragic and irreparable consequences for the situation in Northeast Asia and beyond."

China's foreign ministry also lashed out at the decision, expressing "strong displeasure and firm opposition" to what it said was of no help to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and a "serious infliction of harm" to the strategic security interests of China and other regional nations.

It urged Seoul and Washington to halt the deployment process.


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