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Missile Defense and Strategic Stability: Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in South Korea

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South Korea is threatened by its troubled relationship with North Korea. North Korea possesses a large cache of missiles as well as chemical and biological weapons, and the future potential to mount nuclear weapons on its missiles. The United States is also challenged because of its defense commitments to Seoul. As a countermeasure, the United States and South Korea decided to deploy Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defenses in South Korea. However, China has objected. Chinese scholars believe the THAAD radar would be able to track Chinese inter-continental ballistic missiles, thereby weakening their deterrent. A technical analysis does not support this assertion. However, it is vital for South Korea, given its proximity and economic interdependence, to reassure China. South Korea should highlight that THAAD will be deployed by the United States Forces Korea and is not a commitment by Seoul to become part of U.S.-led missile defenses in the Asia-Pacific.

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