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    A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor arrives at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, in this handout picture provided by the United States Forces Korea (USFK) and released by Yonhap on March 7, 2017. Picture taken on March 6, 2017

    Was Beijing’s Latest Rocket Test ‘Aimed at THAAD’?

    © REUTERS / USFK/Yonhap
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    In response to China’s recent rocket launch near the Korean Peninsula, South Korean media are saying military analysts believe the move was in response to the US deploying its Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea.

    The test’s "rare high-profile announcement" came a month after Chinese ­Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun announced that Beijing would be testing new weapons and conducting live-fire drills as a security measure in response to the THAAD deployment. 

    A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency
    © REUTERS / U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency/Handout

    Though the US has maintained that the anti-missile system’s sole purpose is to defend against aggression from North Korea, Beijing says the installation is destabilizing, and analysts say China believes THAAD’s radar could be used to spy on their military activity.

    As Pyongyang continues its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons development in defiance of UN sanctions and international calls for denuclearization, Washington began installing THAAD last month in the counties of Seongju and Gimcheon, amid outcry and protest from residents.

    Liang Guoliang, a military analyst based in Hong Kong, was quoted by the Korea Times saying that China’s Gansu or Xinjiang provinces may have been the launch site for the recent rocket test.

    "The missile might be launched from the northwest to the east by the Rocket Force, with a range of 2,000 km or above,” Liang said. “It was likely the advanced intermediate-range DF-26B, a modified version of the DF-26."

    "Given the landing area, the test is obviously aimed at THAAD in South Korea."

    The missile’s warhead landed in the Bohai Sea, a Yellow Sea gulf near the Korean Peninsula. 

    Although the Bohai Sea has served as a landing site for these kinds of missile tests for several years, Zhou Chenmin from the Knowfar Institute for Strategic and Defense Studies says that Beijing’s rare announcement of this most recent test made it "quite high profile."

    Zhou suggested that "Missile tests near the East Sea could cause deterrence to some countries."

    South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, has announced plans to send an envoy to China to discuss their concerns about THAAD and how it factors into their “common goal” of denuclearizing North Korea.

    At his inauguration, Moon said, "If needed I will fly directly to Washington. I will go to Beijing and Tokyo. And if conditions are met I will go to Pyongyang. In order to bring about peace and security on the Korean Peninsula, I will do everything that I can."

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    Tags:
    Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), rocket launch, People's Liberation Army, China
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