The US will continue to conduct Freedom of Navigation exercises near disputed lands claimed by China in the South China Sea, and will look to do those exercises in new ways going forward, the head of US Pacific Command said Thursday.
Over the last year the US has conducted two freedom of navigation exercises near islands claimed by China. These exercises, essentially drive-bys by US Navy ships, are designed to show Beijing that the US and its allies in the region regard the territory as part of international waters. Harris indicated that the pace of such exercises could increase in the coming months.
Adm. Harry Harris also called Chinese attempts to sway South Korea and the US from placing the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system on the Korean Peninsula “preposterous” and indicated those complaints would not impact whether the two partner nations agree to install the system.
Following recent weapons tests from North Korea, officials from Seoul and Washington agreed to hold formal talks on whether to place one or more THAAD systems into the Korean Peninsula.
The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) element provides the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) with a globally-transportable, rapidly-deployable capability to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles inside or outside the atmosphere during their final, or terminal, phase of flight. The interceptor missiles carry no warheads, instead relying on kinetic energy to destroy their targets.
Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Thursday, Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi denied attempting to meddle in what he called “ROK internal affairs, but said “I must point out that the x-band radar associated with THAAD system has a radius that goes far beyond the Korean peninsula and reaches into the interior of China.”