After last month announcing it would deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system in South Korea within the year, the US military says THAAD is now operational and—in what is sure to thrill Kim Jong Un—"has the ability to intercept North Korean missiles," per the New York Times. More details:
- An official tells CNN that operation of the system on a former golf course in Seongju is "limited." Officials tell AFP that additional hardware is needed to make the system fully operational, a goal set for later this year.
- But even when fully operational, THAAD won't be able to shoot down the kind of intermediate-range missiles North Korea has been testing, CNN notes. It can, however, destroy short- and medium-range missiles in the final phase of flight.
- So who's footing the bill? President Trump said he wanted Seoul to fork over $1 billion, but Seoul said the US agreed to pay last year; White House national security adviser HR McMaster reaffirmed the latter recently. McMaster, however, says a "renegotiation" is possible to include "appropriate burden-sharing," per the Times.
- This headache could continue. The leader of South Korea’s main opposition party—who's called for an immediate suspension of THAAD pending a review—appears to be the favorite in the May 9 presidential election.
- He's not the only South Korean approaching THAAD with caution. The AP reports many fear health issues from the radar or that THAAD could become a target of North Korea. There are also concerns about its effect on the economy. Per AFP, South Korean automaker Hyundai has already seen its sales plummet in China, which initially condemned the deployment.
- On Tuesday, China called for the countries involved to "stop the deployment immediately," adding it will "firmly take necessary measures to safeguard our own interests."
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