U.S. Upgrades Anti-Missile System in South Korea
SEOUL (Reuters) - The United States, at loggerheads with North Korea over its nuclear weapons aims, has deployed an anti-missile system in the South that can hit ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and aircraft, the U.S. army said Tuesday.
It said the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) system was part of an $11 billion plan to enhance U.S. defenses in South Korea, where 37,000 U.S. troops are stationed to help deter any North Korean attack.
"The upgraded Patriot system will bring enhanced defensive capabilities to the peninsula as well as contribute to the overall deterrence U.S. forces bring to the alliance (with South Korea)," the 8th U.S. Army said in a statement.
"Part of the upgrade and new enhanced capabilities include the hit-to-kill technology to destroy incoming ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and aircraft," it said.
An army public affairs official said the system had been deployed in July but had not been publicized until now because troops were being trained to operate the mobile air defense system. They are now trained.
The PAC-3 fits 16 missiles into a launcher, compared with four on earlier versions. Each missile destroys its target through force of impact but also includes a conventional warhead that blasts fragments to destroy aircraft and cruise missiles.
The United States and four other regional powers -- China, Japan, Russia and South Korea -- are seeking in six-way talks to persuade North Korea to ditch its nuclear weapons program.
Washington is also concerned about the North's ballistic missile program. North Korea already has missiles that can reach Japan and beyond and defense experts say it is developing at least one new type that could reach the United States.
North Korea is certain to take a dim view of the deployment.
"They have conducted ceaseless large-scale military exercises in the sky, land and sea of South Korea and massively introduced sophisticated lethal weapons there this year," the communist party newspaper Rodong Sinmun said Tuesday, according to the North's state-run KCNA news agency.
"This clearly proves that the U.S. imperialists are the chief criminals wrecking the peace and security on the Korean peninsula," the newspaper said. It did not refer specifically to the Patriot system.