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Deployment of US missile defence considered for S Korea

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WASHINGTON (AP): China should not be concerned if the US deploys an advanced missile defence system in South Korea to counter the threat from a nuclear North Korea, a US military commander has said.

Commander of US forces in Korea, General Curtis Scaparrotti, told a congressional hearing on April 16 that if employed, the Theater High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, system would be focused on the defence of the Korean Peninsula and would not have "any influence beyond that."

Pacific forces commander Adm. Samuel Locklear said a potential deployment of THAAD on the peninsula was under discussion to add to one that is on the US territory of Guam.

Scaparrotti told the Senate Armed Services Committee: "The decision process is underway right now."

Scaparrotti clarified after the hearing there has been no formal discussion or decision between South Korea and the US on the matter, and he was referring political and strategic factors that would be considered by the Defence Department in making its decision.

It's a sensitive topic in South Korea. China has publicized its opposition to a THAAD deployment there.

Relations between Seoul and Beijing have grown closer in recent years, amid Chinese dismay over its wayward ally, North Korea.

Asked about China's opposition to a THAAD deployment, Scaparrotti said: "Personally I think this is decision for South Korea, having to do with the defence of their country, and from my perspective as a commander there, defence of our troops."

The US has more than 28,000 troops in South Korea to deter North Korea. Both commanders said they must assume that North Korea has the capability, albeit an untested one, to fire an intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear weapon a threat to the US.

"All the indications are that we have to be prepared to defend the homeland from it, and we're taking actions to do that," Locklear said.

US officials are most concerned about a long-range missile designated as the KN-08 that has been displayed in military parades in Pyongyang. The KN-08 is said to be capable of being launched from a road-mobile vehicle and would therefore be difficult to monitor via satellite.

North Korea has hundreds of shorter-range missiles that can reach targets in South Korea and Japan.

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