SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- A senior U.S. military official said Thursday that an advanced U.S. missile defense system that is to be deployed in South Korea will only target North Korea, not China.
China has grown increasingly angry over the plan to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, system, believing it is capable of tracking missiles inside China. Chinese state media have published daily attacks against the U.S. and South Korea, and China has reportedly canceled events involving South Korean entertainers.
During a group interview with South Korean media including Yonhap news agency, Vice Adm. James D. Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, said the THAAD system will never be used against China.
"We don't defend against China as a threat," he said in the interview at Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff building, according to Yonhap.
Syring said the system is strictly defensive in nature and had successfully intercepted targets in 13 out of 13 tests.
Seoul's Defense Ministry confirmed the substance of Syring's reported comments.
Seoul and Washington announced last month that they will deploy the THAAD system in southern South Korea by the end of next year to better deal with North Korean threats. North Korea responded by warning of unspecified consequences and conducting several missile launches.
Residents at the South Korean deployment site have launched protests over fears that the electromagnetic waves emitted by THAAD radar systems could possibly harm health.
Syring said in the interview that the systems have no adverse environmental effects, Yonhap reported.