Speaking today at a seminar, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter insisted that China’s objection to the planned Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system being installed in South Korea would have no impact on US intentions, saying the system is “going to happen.”
Carter went on to say that the missile defense program “has nothing to do with the Chinese,” and that China should instead focus on harming North Korea’s ability to develop missiles. Carter began talking up the plan after North Korea’s satellite launch in February.
China agreed recently to impose sanctions on North Korea over its January nuclear test, but insists that the THAAD threatens to undermine their own strategic deterrent in the region, because its range is far beyond the Korean Peninsula, and extends deep into Chinese territory.
Like many of the pricey US missile defense systems, the ability of the THAAD to be an effective foil to a proper missile attack is unclear, though from China’s perspective uncertainty about it might oblige them to increase the size of their arsenal to retain the same strike capability.