By Yi Whan-woo
The South Korean military has dismissed China's claims that the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system being set up here this year is aimed at monitoring the Chinese military.
"The allies would have to have public consent first for the THAAD battery to be used against China," the military said in a statement Sunday. "But this will never happen because it is purely defensive against only North Korea."
The statement said China was repeating false arguments that THAAD's long-range radar can be used to spy on military activities when the missile defense system was fully deployed here.
Pointing out that THAAD was exclusively aimed at deterring North Korea's ballistic missile attacks, the officials said any attempt to alter the direction of THAAD components, such as the radar and launch pad, toward China would face "military and technical limitations."
To sort out such limitations and make alterations, U.S. military forces stationed in South Korea would need to consult the Seoul government.
The government then would need to convince its people and obtain public agreement.
"But it will be impossible in the real world to win public consent in altering the purpose of THAAD to keep an eye on China," a military official said.
"In other words, it will be impossible to operate THAAD for anything else other than shooting down North Korea's short to intermediate-range ballistic missiles. THAAD will be directed at North Korea, against Pyongyang's missile threats."
The officials denied that THAAD was capable of intercepting intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) launched from China.
"A THAAD missile can't chase an ICBM that is in an ascent phase and has fully gained speed," the statement read, repeating that THAAD's AN/TPY radar would be positioned and configured in a terminal mode to intercept missiles in their later stages of flight.
"The radar will be in a terminal mode and its maximum distance will be limited to the Korean Peninsula, meaning it will hardly have impact on China's security interests."
The statement also said a THAAD missile travels at more than Mach 7 to 8 and could shoot down short to intermediate-range missiles, only if they were in their terminal mode and traveling at Mach 14 or below.
"It can't strike an ICBM that has a speed of over mach 20," it said. "As far as we understand, only a ground-based interceptor deployed in the U.S. mainland is capable of doing so."