A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test

A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency. Reuters

SEOUL - South Korea announced on Wednesday the site where a U.S. THAAD anti-missile defense unit will be deployed against North Korea's missile and nuclear threats, a plan that has angered China and prompted a North Korean warning of retaliation.

South Korea and the United States said last Friday they had made a final decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system in the South.

Tension on the Korean peninsula has been high since North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and followed that with a satellite launch and a string of test launches of various missiles.

The South Korean Defence Ministry said the THAAD system would be deployed in the southeastern county of Seongju to maximize its effectiveness while minimizing any impact on residents and the environment.

"By operating the U.S. THAAD battery in Seongju, we will be able to better protect one half to two-thirds of our citizens from North Korean nuclear and missile threats," the ministry said in a statement.

"It will dramatically strengthen the military capabilities and readiness to defend critical national infrastructure such as nuclear power plants and oil storage facilities, as well as the military forces of the South Korea-U.S. alliance."

North Korea's military on Monday threatened to retaliate against the deployment of the system with a "physical response" once its location and time of installation were decided.

South Korea's defense ministry has said it aims to have the system operational by the end of 2017.

The decision to deploy THAAD is the latest move to squeeze the increasingly isolated North Korea, but China worries the system's radar will be able to track its military capabilities. Russia also opposes the deployment.

South Korea and the United States have said THAAD will only be used in defense against North Korean ballistic missiles, but China has warned it would destabilize the regional security balance.

THAAD is built by Lockheed Martin Corp and designed to defend against short and medium range ballistic missiles by intercepting them high in the atmosphere, or outside it. The United States already has a THAAD system on the island of Guam.

Putting THAAD in Seongju would also allow for protection of major U.S. military installations in the South, while limiting the range of its radar's reach into China, South Korean media said.

The United States has about 28,000 troops in South Korea. It will pay for the THAAD system.

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