US and South Korea agree 'early' deployment of THAAD missile defence system
The US and South Korea have agreed to the early activation of a defence system designed to shoot down North Korean missiles, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.
The decision to activate the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system reportedly came during talks between the acting South Korean President Hwang Kyo Ahn and Mike Pence, as the US Vice President warned North Korea that the "era of strategic patience is over".
At a joint press conference with Mr Pence today, Mr Hwang said: "We have agreed to further strengthen the readiness posture of [the] ROK-US alliance that matches the threats posed by North Korea through a swift deployment of THAAD."
A failed North Korean missile test on Sunday, when an unidentified projectile exploded moments after being launched in an eastern port city, came in defiance of US President Donald Trump's demands for the country to wrap up its nuclear programme.
Operations to install the THAAD began in early March, the day after the North launched four ballistic missiles, when the United States flew in the "first elements" of the system to a military base near the South Korean capital Seoul.
Earlier this week, Donald Trump's national security advisor said the North Korean "problem" was "coming to a head" and said he believed there was "an international consensus now, including the Chinese leadership, that this is a situation that just cannot continue."
And speaking today at the border of the heavily-mined demilitarized zone which bisects the peninsula, Mr Pence sounded a similar note. Referring to an "iron-clad alliance" between the United States and North Korea, he said: "All options are on the table to achieve the objectives and ensure the stability of the people of this country."