The US early Wednesday, April 26, began moving the THAAD missile defense system to central South Korea opposite the border with the North – months ahead of schedule. A South Korean military official said two road-mobile launchers had arrived at the Osan Air Base. One THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) unit includes six launchers.
Tuesday, the USS Michigan nuclear submarine docked in South Korea, after the North began a large-scale, long-range artillery fire drill in Wonsan on the east coast. More than 4,000 artillery guns are reported to be taking part in the “exercise.”
The Michigan is in place ready to join the USS Carl Vinson carrier and its strike group which are steaming towards the peninsula, along with two Japanese destroyers.
Later Wednesday, all 100 US senators are scheduled to gather at the White House for a briefing by US security and military chiefs on the North Korean crisis, as the buildup to meet North Korean belligerence continues apace.
Facing US steps to meet the Korean crisis, China made ready to launch its second aircraft carrier, the Shandong, also known as the Type 001A. The new vessel, the first to be manufactured from prow to stern in China, is bigger than the Liaoning, China’s first Russian-made aircraft carrier. It is due to be operational in two or three years.
Beijing has voiced objections to the deployment of an American missile shield in South Korea, a country it regards as its back yard. China also continues its own naval buildup to assert its control of the South China Sea.
At the same time, the Chinese Air Force remains on high alert over the Korean crisis, although this is denied in Beijing, and Russia continues to pour troops, tanks and missiles to its short 18-km border with North Korea in the Vladivostok district. Japan too is placing its army on a war footing.
On Tuesday, US, Japanese and South Korean envoys met in Tokyo to coordinate their preparations for meeting North Korea’s threats, including the detonation of its sixth nuclear test. Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing, Moscow and Washington are waiting tensely to see if Kim Jong-un is deterred from his aggressive rhetoric and moves by the arrival of the THAAD missiles at his back door.