* N.Korea leader Kim supervised tests of four missiles
* Drill by N.Korea army units tasked to attack U.S. bases in
* U.S. Trump in phone talk with Japan's Abe, reaffirming
(Recasts with start of THAAD deployment, adds details)
By James Pearson
SEOUL, March 7 The United States started to
deploy the first elements of its advanced Terminal High Altitude
Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system to South Korea
following North Korea's test of four ballistic missiles, U.S.
Pacific Command said on Tuesday.
The announcement came as North Korean state media said
leader Kim Jong Un had personally supervised Monday's missile
launches, stepping up threats against Washington as U.S. troops
conduct joint military exercises with South Korea.
"Continued provocative actions by North Korea, to include
yesterday's launch of multiple missiles, only confirm the
prudence of our alliance decision last year to deploy THAAD to
South Korea," U.S. Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris said
in the statement.
The move by the U.S. military is likely to deepen the
brewing conflict between South Korea and China, which has
angrily opposed the THAAD deployment as destroying regional
The four ballistic missiles landed in the sea off Japan's
northwest, angering Seoul and Tokyo, days after North Korea
promised retaliation over the military drills which it sees as
preparation for war.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister
Shinzo Abe discussed the launches during a phone call on
"Japan and the U.S. confirmed that the latest North Korean
missile launches were clearly against U.N. resolutions and a
clear provocation against the regional and international
community," Abe told reporters. "(North Korea's) threat has
entered a new phase."
Trump also spoke to South Korea's acting President Hwang
Kyo-ahn to discuss the North's missile launches, Hwang's office
The missile test was undertaken by an army unit commissioned
with attacking U.S. military bases in Japan, the North's
official KCNA news agency said.
"In the hearts of artillerymen ... there was burning desire
to mercilessly retaliate against the warmongers going ahead with
their joint war exercises," KCNA said.
"He (Kim) ordered the KPA Strategic Force to keep highly
alert as required by the grim situation in which an actual war
may break out any time, and get fully ready to promptly move,
take positions and strike so that it can open fire to annihilate
The missiles North Korea fired on Monday were unlikely to
have been intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), South
Korea said, which can reach the United States. They flew on
average 1,000 km (620 miles) and reached an altitude of 260 km
Some landed as close as 300 km (190 miles) from Japan's
northwest coast, Japan's Defence Minister said earlier.
The United States and Japan have requested a United Nations
Security Council meeting on the launches, which will likely be
scheduled for Wednesday, diplomats said.
The planned installation of the U.S. anti-missile defence
system, which South Korea has said would be operational by the
end of the year, has led to a diplomatic standoff between China
and South Korea.
Chinese authorities have closed nearly two dozen retail
stores of South Korea's Lotte Group that approved a land swap
with the country's military last week to allow it to install the
China objects to the THAAD deployment, saying its territory
is the target of the system's far-reaching radar. South Korea
and the United States have said the missile system is aimed only
at curbing North Korean provocations.
(Additional reporting by Ju-min Park and Daewoung Kim in SEOUL,
Kaori Kaneko in TOKYO and Phil Stewart in WASHINGTON; Editing by
Lincoln Feast and Jack Kim)