Why is North Korea worried about THAAD
BACKGROUND Far East due to North Korea crisis before arms race
Seoul (Reuters) - According to experts, the escalating North Korea crisis could trigger a new arms race in the region.
The focus is on South Korea, which sees itself particularly threatened. The establishment of the US anti-missile defense system Thaad, which was recently viewed critically by the government, is now being pushed forward there at the urging of President Moon Jae In. There are also plans to build a nuclear powered submarine and allow missiles with greater destructive power. Some politicians are even calling for US nuclear weapons to be stationed on the peninsula again after they were withdrawn 25 years ago. "All of this could lead to further militarization of South Korea," says researcher Yang Uk from the Korea Defense and Security Forum.
But other states in the region are also concerned. In Japan, for example, there is concern that missile defense may not be able to cope with an attack. The country will therefore probably set up, among other things, an Aegis defense system on land, which has so far only been installed on ships. It is also considering buying ammunition that could be used against North Korean missile emplacements.
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Formally, South and North Korea are still at war. The conflict from 1950 to 1953 ended in an armistice; there is no peace treaty. South Korea's military includes 625,000 soldiers. In addition, there are more than 28,000 soldiers from the most important ally, the USA, who are stationed in the country. About a tenth of the South Korean budget goes into the defense budget. In addition to the Thaad defense system, the Patriot system built in the USA is also in use.
Above all, the government in Seoul wants to strengthen the missile armed forces. To this end, she is pressing for a change in the regulations, according to which the country may only have ballistic projectiles that can transport explosives weighing a maximum of 500 kilograms and fly a maximum of 800 kilometers. The range covers all of North Korea. In order not to call Russia, China or Japan on the scene, according to high-ranking representatives from Seoul, the government is not interested in obtaining weapons with a greater range. Rather, the South Korean armed forces want to be allowed to use stronger warheads of a ton or more. This could also be used to destroy underground bunkers or nuclear facilities.
The demands of conservative MPs are already going further. They want an "atomic balance" to be established on the Korean peninsula. “Now is the right time to take an active part in bringing tactical nuclear weapons back,” opposition politician Chung Woo Taik told Reuters. "North Korea broke the denuclearization deal a long time ago." The US withdrew its nuclear weapons from South Korea in 1992 when the two neighbors agreed to make the peninsula a nuclear weapons-free area. Even so, North Korea has carried out five nuclear tests since then.
At the moment, however, a new deployment of American nuclear weapons is considered unlikely. Such a step would hardly be compatible with demands from Seoul and Washington that the leadership in Pyongyang should give up its nuclear program. That North Korea's ruler Kim Jong Un will go into it again seems more than unlikely at the moment.
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