U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit South Korea next week. Several issues are expected to be discussed, including the recent launch of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) by the North and the deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in the South.
With the North Korean nuclear threat mounting these days, an increasing number of people are advocating the deployment of the THAAD, which is capable of covering an altitude of as high as 40 to 150 km. Conversely, the Korean Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) system is limited to an altitude of 15 to 30 km. The recent launch of the SLBM, which is rarely detectable when fired from the water, has added to their concerns.
However, some experts point out that the THAAD's X-band Radar System has its own limitations in pinpointing the release points of the North’s SLBMs, although in theory it is capable of intercepting the missiles when directed to the sea.
China is pleased with such analysis. “It is the interests of the United States and Japan that the THAAD serves, not those of Korea,” a Chinese military commentator said recently, adding, “If North Korea attacked the South, short-range missiles and long-range guns would be employed instead of ballistic missiles, which means the THAAD is not helpful at all for protection of the South, only to irritate the countries surrounding the Korean Peninsula.”