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US Sets Up Missile Defense in S. Korea 04/26 06:28

   Hours after a display of North Korean military power, rival South Korea 
announced Wednesday the installation of key parts of a contentious U.S. missile 
defense system meant to counter the North.

   SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Hours after a display of North Korean military 
power, rival South Korea announced Wednesday the installation of key parts of a 
contentious U.S. missile defense system meant to counter the North.

   South Korea's trumpeting of progress in setting up the Terminal 
High-Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, comes as high-powered U.S. 
military vessels converge on the Korean Peninsula and as a combative North 
Korea signals possible nuclear and missile testing.

   North Korea conducted live-fire artillery drills on Tuesday, the 85th 
anniversary of the founding of its million-person Korean People's Army. On the 
same day, a U.S. guided-missile submarine docked in South Korea. And the USS 
Carl Vinson aircraft supercarrier is also headed toward the peninsula for a 
joint exercise with South Korea.

   The moves to set up THAAD within this year have angered not only North 
Korea, but also China, the country that the Trump administration hopes to work 
with to rid the North of nuclear weapons. China, which has grown increasingly 
frustrated with North Korea, its ally, and Russia see the system's powerful 
radars as a security threat.

   South Korea said in a statement Wednesday that unspecified parts of THAAD 
were installed. It said that Seoul and Washington have been pushing to get 
THAAD quickly working to cope with North Korea's advancing nuclear and missile 
threats. According to the Yonhap news agency, the parts include two or three 
launchers, intercept missiles and a radar.

   Some people near the site in the country's southeast are worried that THAAD 
may cause health problems, and thousands of police officers assembled 
Wednesday, blocking the main road, Yonhap reported. About 500 protesters 
rallied, and 13 villagers and police officers were injured in scuffles and 
treated at hospitals, reportedly for broken bones, according to the Seongju 
fire department.

   Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Wednesday that the 
system's deployment would "disrupt the regional strategic balance and further 
aggravate the tension on the peninsula."

   Geng said "China will firmly be taking necessary measures to defend our own 
interests" but offered no details. China's defense ministry has also repeatedly 
criticized THAAD's deployment and said the military will take unspecified 
actions in response.

   On Tuesday, North Korea conducted what it called its largest ever combined 
live-fire drills, near the east coast port city of Wonsan.

   North Korea's official media reported Wednesday that leader Kim Jong Un 
personally observed the exercises, which involved the firing of more than 300 
large-caliber artillery pieces and included submarine torpedo-attacks on mock 
enemy warships.

   Along with sending U.S. military assets to the region in a show of force, 
President Donald Trump is leaning on China to exert economic pressure on North 
Korea. Chinese President Xi Jinping, who spoke to Trump on Monday, is urging 
restraint from both North Korea and the U.S.

   In Washington, top Trump administration officials are due to brief the 
entire U.S. Senate on Wednesday. A rapid tempo of North Korean weapons testing 
in the past year has pushed Kim Jong Un's authoritarian nation closer to 
developing a nuclear-armed missile that could reach the U.S. mainland.

   Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham voiced confidence that Trump won't allow 
North Korea to reach that point. Graham, a defense hawk who dined with Trump on 
Monday night, said North Korea should not underestimate the president's resolve.

   The USS Michigan, a nuclear-powered submarine, arrived Tuesday at the South 
Korean port of Busan for what was described as a routine visit to rest crew and 
load supplies. The U.S. 7th Fleet said two American destroyers were conducting 
simultaneous maritime exercises with naval ships from South Korea and Japan.

   North Korea routinely accuses the United States of readying for an invasion, 
and threatens pre-emptive strikes to stop it. An unidentified North Korean 
Foreign Ministry spokesman said the U.S. administration's policy to maximize 
pressure on North Korea was "little short of lighting the fuse of total war," 
the state news agency reported Tuesday.

   The streets of Pyongyang, however, were quiet for Tuesday's anniversary, 
which was overshadowed by April 15 celebrations of the birthday of the nation's 
late founder, Kim Il Sung, and were marked by a missile test the following day.

   On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is to chair a special 
meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

   Tillerson will be "very vocal" about nations enforcing sanctions on North 
Korea, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. Trump said Monday the 
council must be prepared to impose stronger sanctions.


(KA)

 
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