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South Korea, US to Discuss Deploying Missile Defense System

A passenger walks past a TV screen broadcasting a news report on North Korea's long range rocket launch at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, Feb. 7, 2016.

South Korea and the U.S. will formally discuss deploying a missile-defense system known as THAAD, after North Korea claimed to have launched a satellite into space.

A joint statement by both militaries said the talks will "explore the feasibility of THAAD deploying to and operating on the Korean Peninsula at the earliest possible date."

According to the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) has a truck-mounted launcher that can fire interceptors that destroy ballistic missiles "inside or outside the atmosphere."

"It has been decided to formally start talks on the possibility of deploying the THAAD system to South Korea as part of steps to bolster the missile defense of the Korea-U.S. alliance," said Yoo Jeh-Seung, Seoul's deputy defense minister for policy.

"The Korea-U.S. alliance had no choice but to take such a defense action because North Korea staged a strategic provocation and is refusing to have a genuine dialogue on denuclearization," Yoo said in a joint briefing with Lieutenant General Thomas Vandal, commander of the U.S. Eighth Army based in South Korea.

But the system is unpopular outside Seoul. Three years ago, when South Korea discussed purchasing the U.S.-developed system, China objected, citing a risk to its security.

Beijing once again objected Sunday, with a foreign ministry spokeswoman saying the country is "deeply concerned" over the announced negotiations. Hua Chunying said the missile defense system will escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula and in the region.

China is North Korea's primary trading partner.

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