The U.S missile defense battery being installed in South Korea will be operational “in the coming days” according to Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command.
Harris’ remarks came during a speech before a congressional panel Wednesday, following the transportation of key components of the ballistic missile interceptor — including its long range X-band radar — to their installation site in the South Korean town of Seongju.
“The ROK-U.S. alliance decided last July to deploy THAAD, that’s a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, which will be operational in the coming days and able to better defend South Korea against the growing North Korea threat,” Harris said.
In his speech, Harris expressed a lack of confidence in North Korean leader Kim Jong Un refraining from “something precipitous” as he “moves closer to his stated goal of preemptive nuclear strike capability against American cities.”
In line with signals that the U.S. administration intends to ramp up economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea, Harris said he wanted to bring Kim “to his senses, not to his knees.” He also echoed Trump’s accusation that Beijing should be doing more to reign in North Korea, calling China’s opposition to THAAD, and the penalizing of South Korean companies over the issue, “preposterous,” reports CNN.
Testifying to the House, Harris urged lawmakers to add ballistic missile interceptors to installations already in place in Alaska and California and “consider putting interceptors in Hawaii,” the Washington Examiner reports.
He also acknowledged that North Korean retaliation to any U.S. strike would endanger the lives of millions of Koreans in Seoul, and the 24,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, according to the Guardian.