In a defiant bit of timing, South Korea announced Wednesday that key parts of a contentious USA missile defense system had been installed a day after rival North Korea showed off its military power.
The Pentagon also previous year quietly realigned its efforts to counter weapons of mass destruction under U.S. Special Operations Command, rather than U.S. Strategic Command, which has other missions that range from space operations to missile defense. "It is a purely defensive system", he added, saying that the THAAD components are "aimed north" - not at China to the west. Although such an explosion hasn't yet occurred, Trump has sent high-powered USA military vessels and an aircraft carrier to the region in a show of force, while the North conducted large-scale, live-fire artillery drills, witnessed by national leader Kim Jong Un, earlier this week.
Harris testified ahead of an unusual meeting at the White House Wednesday, when all 100 USA senators are expected to attend a classified briefing on North Korea.
"The overnight, unannounced operation came just six days after U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) secured the land in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, from the South Korean government", the Yonhap News Agency reports.
North Korea conducted live-fire artillery drills on Tuesday, the 85th anniversary of the founding of its million-person strong Korean People's Army.
"If it flies, it will die", Harris said.
The moves to set up THAAD within this year have angered not only North Korea, but also China, the country that the Trump administration hopes to work with to rid the North of nuclear weapons.
The heated rhetoric between the USA and North Korea has intensified in recent weeks. The leader has previously spoken of striking American cities, and this week, North Korea threatened to sink the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier. Trump's top national security advisers said they were "open to negotiations" with the North, though they gave no indication of when or under what circumstances. An unstable North Korea could lead refugees to flee into China.
"China is the key to this", said Sen.
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China's influence on North Korea is probably more than that of any other country and Beijing needs to exercise that influence on Pyongyang, said State Department Acting Spokesman Mark Toner. His spokesman, Mark Toner, said Wednesday that another tactic is getting nations around the world to close down North Korean embassies and consulates, or suspending them from global organizations. Tillerson is chairing a U.N. Security Council meeting Friday created to get nations to enforce existing penalties on North Korea and weigh new ones.
Harris also expressed confidence the United States could defeat any North Korea missile attack on an American aircraft carrier strike group but said the United States should study placing additional missile defense capabilities in Hawaii. The ministry said Seoul and Washington have been pushing to get THAAD operating soon. On Wednesday, its United Nations mission said North Korea would react to "a total war" with the USA with a nuclear war and asserted the North would win in a "death-defying struggle against the US imperialists". It said it would win in a "death-defying struggle against the United States imperialists".
President Donald Trump has sent more US military assets to the region in a show of force while leaning on China to exert economic pressure on its wayward ally.
China has urged restraint by both Pyongyang and Washington. Sanctions haven't forced Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear efforts, but a targeted USA attack to take out its weapons program risks a wider war along a heavily militarized border near where tens of millions of South Koreans live.
Hours before the admiral spoke to members of Congress, parts of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system began the trip to their deployment site in a rural part of South Korea.
Pyongyang must suspend its nuclear activities, he said, but "on the other side, the large-scale military maneuvers in Korean waters should be halted". That was a reference to USA and South Korean war games.
But China says the system's advanced radar can penetrate deep into its territory and undermine its security, while it will do little to deter the North, and is adamant in its opposition.
"China will firmly be taking necessary measures to defend our own interests", Geng added.