The U.S. plans to deploy an advanced missile shield to South Korea, and China is frantically searching for ways to undermine it.
The U.S. and South Korea announced plans to deploy a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea last summer in response to North Korean provocations. China is highly critical of the plans, calling the missile shield a threat to China’s national security.
China specifically objects to the eyes of the THAAD system, specifically, the Army Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance (AN/TYP-2) X-band radar, which can operate in either terminal mode or forward-base mode.
In terminal mode, the radar has a range of several hundred miles, giving the THAAD anti-missile system the ability to detect, track, and eliminate missiles in the final or terminal phase of flight. In forward-base mode, the radar’s range is extended, making it possible for THAAD to target projectiles in the initial or launch phase. The radar can reportedly be reconfigured in eight hours.
The U.S. has assured China that the radar will be set in terminal mode; however, China fears that the U.S. will opt for the extended-range option. In forward-base mode, the radar could potentially peer into Chinese territory and reveal essential information about China’s defense systems. China asserts that U.S. plans to deploy THAAD in South Korea will upend China’s strategic nuclear deterrence capabilities.
Given North Korea’s continued aggression, the U.S. and South Korea are moving forward with plans to deploy THAAD in Seongju this year.
The U.S. responded that THAAD will target only North Korea. “There is no other nation that needs to be concerned about THAAD other than North Korea,” Secretary of Defense James Mattis said early last month.
China doesn’t buy it though and is convinced the U.S. intends to “monitor China’s military deployment and missile-launch” abilities.
China’s foreign ministry said Tuesday that China would take “necessary measures” in response to the deployment and the burden of guilt for whatever consequences followed would be on the U.S. and South Korea.
“The US global missile defense system is ultimately targeted at the nuclear deterrent capability of China and Russia,” the Global Times wrote last month, adding that “resolute countermeasures against Washington’s anti-missile achievements are the only way to sustain the current strategic balance.”
“The anti-missile system is the new front of nuclear arms race,” the semi-official tabloid explained.
Chinese experts are working on ways to disable the THAAD system, thus removing the alleged threat to China’s national security.
“Once the system has been deployed, Seongju county will appear on the list of the PLA missile system’s strike targets,” Song Zhongping, a military expert and former member of the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLAAF), told the Global Times.
Song proposed “blinding” the THAAD radar.
“China has measures to counter the THAAD system, for instance, making it ‘blind,’ which is very easy. The PLA is entirely capable of doing that,” Peng Guangqian, a military strategist at the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Academy of Military Science, told reporters.
“Making it ‘blind’ is a choice, but it will require damaging or even destroying THAAD’s radar system, so this is a ‘hard measure,’ normally implemented by a directed-energy weapon or laser weapon,” Song explained. “Apart from this, we can also make THAAD useless through electronic interference and feigned military activities, because such activities can interrupt the functioning of the THAAD system.”
China reportedly attempted to “blind” a U.S. satellite back in 2006. While China’s capabilities have improved, it is unclear whether they have the ability to target THAAD’s radar system.
The two experts also suggested learning from Russia, which is increasing strategic bomber patrols and working to develop more advanced weapons capable of penetrating the U.S. missile shield.
China also believes it can put pressure, specifically in the economic sphere, on South Korea to change the deployment plans.
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