On Feb. 7, North Korea launched a long-range rocket that carried a satellite, which it said had peaceful purposes. However, South Korea and the United States viewed the satellite launch as a threat, saying it could be a test for a future nuclear launch.
South Korea and its United Nations allies, the U.S. and Japan, were reported to be working together as the South Korean President Park Geun-hye contacted President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss how they would suppress North Korea and its provocations.
“North Korea’s long-range missiles are not only a threat to the United States, but also a threat to its allies,” said Obama. “South Korea and the United States’ alliance against North Korea will not falter.”
It was disclosed that a U.S. missile-defense system may be deployed in South Korea in the near future. As the first step of resistance against North Korea, South Korea shut down an inter-Korean factory park, the Kaesong Industrial Complex, which was jointly run as the last major symbol of cooperation between the two countries.
Hyekyong Ju, a South Korean living in the U.S., told JSR, “When Korea divided between the South and the North, most families became broken, and tensions have been high ever since. It’s upsetting that the only thing keeping the Koreas together is being shut down.”
South Korea claimed that the North had used funds from the complex to pay for its nuclear and missile programs. According to the Korea Times, North Korea viewed this claim as a “declaration of war” and responded by deporting South Korean citizens, seizing South Korean assets, and threatening to militarize the park.
The American missile-defense system is called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD. It can target short-, medium-, and intercontinental ballistic-missiles in flight with a radar. According to USA Today, it contains advanced ballistic-missile-detecting technology.
Although the confrontation is primarily between South and North Korea, it may affect other countries. China and Russia expressed concerns, criticizing the THAAD system, as it could possibly detect missiles in other countries with its radar.
For a long time, the South Korean news media have speculated that South Korea and the U.S. were working on the THAAD system, but it was only until the illegal satellite launch that the allies formally revealed it. According to Reuters, one reason was that China is North Korea’s main ally, but it is also the U.S.’ biggest trade partner. Therefore, the U.S. was reluctant to announce the system because it could possibly affect its ties with China. Russia was concerned that the system would begin an arms race in Northeast Asia.
According to the Associated Press, a South Korean official stated that the THAAD system was solely targeting North Korea in order to protect South Korea. South Korea has no intention to attack China or Russia, the official said.