North Korea Threatens to Retaliate if US Deploys THAAD on Peninsula

The first THAAD missile is launched on Sept. 10, 2013. (DoD photo)
The first THAAD missile is launched on Sept. 10, 2013. (DoD photo)

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea on Monday threatened to take a "physical counter-action" if the United States follows through with plans to deploy an advanced missile defense system in the South.

The warning came three days after Washington and Seoul agreed to establish a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, known as THAAD, on the divided peninsula to guard against missiles being developed by the North.

North Korea vowed to "take a physical counter-action to thoroughly control THAAD, aggression means of the U.S. for world domination, from the moment its location and place have been confirmed in South Korea," according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

The report cited the Artillery Bureau of the General Staff for the Korean People's Army.

"The U.S. had better understand that the more massively it introduces war weapons to South Korea and its vicinity, the closer they will come into the firing range of the KPA and the more miserable end the U.S. will meet without even a moment to make a shrill cry," it said.

KCNA also criticized South Korea for allowing the system to be deployed on its territory. The two countries are technically still at war after the 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty. About 28,500 U.S. service members are stationed in the South.

"We once again warn the enemies that it is the steadfast will of the KPA to make merciless retaliatory strikes to reduce South Korea to a sea in flames, debris once an order is issued," the report said.

South Korea's Ministry of Defense said it was ready to respond in kind.

"North Korea needs to clearly see who is responsible for putting the Korean peninsula's peace and security at risk before criticizing the THAAD deployment decision," ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun said in a press briefing.

"If North Korea continues its groundless claims and rash actions in defiance of our warnings, it will have to face our military's stringent retaliation," he added.

South Korean officials have said a joint working group is close to announcing the best site for THAAD, although the actual location will be kept secret for security reasons. The South Koreans expressed hope the system will be in operation by the end of next year.

China, a traditional Pyongyang ally, also has strongly objected to the decision to deploy THAAD on the peninsula. Beijing fears the radar system could be used to track its military movements.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye insisted it is a "purely defensive measure, according to the Yonhap news agency.

"THAAD will not target any country other than North Korea and will not encroach upon the security interests of any third country. We have no reason to do so," she was quoted as saying Monday during a meeting with her senior secretaries.

North Korea has defiantly continued its nuclear weapons program despite international condemnation and toughened U.N. sanctions.

It fired a missile from a submarine on Saturday, although South Korean officials said it failed in the early stages of flight. That was the latest in a series of missile launches as tensions have risen after the North staged its fourth underground atomic test in January.

The U.S. also slapped new sanctions on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and other top officials last week for alleged human rights abuses. Pyongyang responded by calling the move "an open declaration of war."

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