Updated 6:02 PM EDT, Wed, Apr 01, 2020

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China’s Largest Naval Drill Fails to stop South Korea Deploying THAAD; Japan to also Operate THAAD

Fire in the sky

(Photo : US Army) A THAAD missile system on its mobile launcher and what the system can do.

China held the largest ever naval exercise involving all the three fleets of its the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) last September in a failed effort to scare South Korea into changing its decision to deploy the United States' THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) system on its soil in 2017.

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Japan also announced it has taken the first steps in a process that will eventually lead to its deploying THAAD on Japanese soil, a decision China will ferociously oppose.

On Nov. 14, Seoul announced its decision to speed-up the deployment of THAAD instead of being cowed by the unabashed show of force by the People's Liberation Army Navy Surface Force (PLANSF) that combined warships from all its three fleets -- the South Sea, East Sea and North Sea Fleets.

PLANSF held its joint surface exercise that involved live ammunition firings at the Yellow Sea and Bohai Sea. Over 100 surface warships of the PLANSF took part in the drill intended to frighten South Korea into submissiveness along with dozens of warplanes from the PLAN and the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).

The drill last September was the third large-scale PLAN exercise over the past four months intended to scare South Korea. PLAN held two other drills in the South and East China seas in July and August, which were revealed to media, unlike the drill last September revealed only yesterday.

A Chinese military analyst told Chinese state-controlled media the reason for the secrecy was to exert enough pressure to get South Korea to change its mind without going too far. At the time of the secret naval drill, the South Korean government had still not made up its mind on whether or not to deploy THAAD. The analyst said China wanted to scare South Korea into not deploying THAAD.

The decision, however, was clinched in November with South Korea and the United States making separate announcements confirming the deployment of THAAD. The first of two THAAD systems should become operational by September 2017.

South Korea wants THAAD to defend against the real strategic threat posed by North Korea's expanding arsenal of ballistic nuclear missiles. North Korea claims it now has the capability to arm these missiles with nuclear warheads. South Korea has no home grown defense against ballistic missiles.

Japan early this week announced it had established a commission to examine the potential benefits of emplacing THAAD on its soil to increase its defense capabilities against North Korean ballistic missiles.

The commission headed by State Minister of Defense Kenji Wakamiya will examine the pros and cons of using THAAD.

"We are investigating future systems for intercepting missiles," said Japan's Defense Minister Tomomi Inada.

Although Japan has no concrete plans to deploy THAAD, the Japan Self-Defense Force is considering what can be done to better defend Japan from the threat posed by North Korea's ballistic missiles.

Japan is seriously considering a three-stage THAAD defense system. The first-stage consists of an anti-ballsitic missile defense system now in place is a two-tier system relying on ship-based RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) interceptors aboard its Atago-class and Kongo-class guided missile destroyers to target missiles in space.

The second-stage consists of land-based MIM-104F Patriot (PAC-3) surface-to-air missile batteries to intercept rockets flying close to the ground.

THAAD will allow the interception of missiles in or outside the Earth's atmosphere, thereby constituting a third-stage defense.

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