U.S. military begins moving THAAD missile defense to South Korea site

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"If it flies, it will die", Adm. Harry Harris Jr., told Congress.

North Korea conducted a big live-fire exercise on Tuesday to mark the foundation of its military as a USA submarine docked in South Korea in a show of force amid growing concern over the North's nuclear and missile programmes. Harris said the THAAD would be operational within days. Nuclear and missile weapons capable of hitting the USA are considered the key to protecting Kim.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have soared in recent months as North Korea's missile tests have brought ever-more bellicose warnings from US President Donald Trump's administration.

But the United States and its South Korean and Japanese allies showed their muscle as well by conducting military exercises of their own.

At a House Armed Services Committee, Harris rejected reports that the Carl Vinson group is vulnerable to North Korean attacks.

But Harris also said he expects North Korea to soon be able to develop a long-range missile capable of striking the United States, despite some spectacular failures in its ballistic missile program.

Kim Jong Un's erratic, provocative behavior was particularly troubling because, Harris said, he's "not afraid to fail in public".

Harris testified before a pair of Trump administration briefings on the North Korea crisis.

Tillerson, along with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Joint Chiefs chairman General Joseph Dunford, would also hold a rare briefing for the entire U.S. Senate on North Korea on Wednesday, Senate aides said.

North Korea and the US continue to play a game of political intrigue, with the former conducting major military drills Tuesday while the latter builds an worldwide coalition to pressure Pyongyang into giving up its nuclear program.

Seoul and Washington say the sole objective of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system is to defend against North Korean missiles, but China is concerned the system's powerful radar can penetrate its territory and undermine its security and has repeatedly expressed opposition to it. The exercise was held as tensions between Pyongyang and Washington rise and a United States submarine even arrived near North Korea.

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"Our great leaders founded and wisely led our revolutionary army, and just like that, now our respected Marshal Kim Jong Un is leading wisely, so even though the situation is tense, we are celebrating the day", said Choe Un Byol, who had come with his family to the bronze statues of the former leaders.

"This is a real threat to the world, whether we want to talk about it or not", Trump said at a White House meeting Monday.

But asked what if North Korea tests an intercontinental missile or nuclear device, she said: "I think then the president steps in and decides what's going to happen".

Speaking at a daily news briefing in Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China urged the US and South Korea to withdraw the system. But he declined to provide specifics in an open setting.

According to the US Navy's Submarine Force Pacific website, the USS Michigan carries more than 150 Tomahawk cruise missiles.

Unspecified parts of the THAAD defense system also were installed. "Without action from China, which provides heavy crude to the North, there will be no progress on the North Korean problem", a Japanese official said. China, which has grown increasingly frustrated with North Korea, its traditional ally, and Russian Federation see the system's powerful radars as a security threat.

The U.S. will lead discussions of additional sanctions against Pyongyang at a Friday meeting of foreign ministers from Security Council members.

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the THAAD system's deployment would "disrupt the regional strategic balance and further aggravate the tension on the peninsula".

While US Naval Forces Korea called the visit "routine", a US defence official told CNN it was a show of force to North Korea.

North Korea conducted two nuclear and eight missile tests past year.