A powerful U.S. anti-missile system designed to protect South Korea is sparking regional anxiety that's begun hitting one of Asia's most important economies.
The system, known as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, is designed to defend South Korea and Japan from missile attack. North Korea and its unpredictable leader Kim Jong Un possess nuclear weapons and make a habit of regularly threatening neighbors.
THAAD, which could be operational as soon as summer 2017, uses radar to track when a ballistic missile is launched and then intercepts and destroys the missile before it descends onto its target.
This month, in the most recent show of force, North Korea launched four ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan. The United States has taken a more aggressive tone with North Korea, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson saying on Friday that military action against the country is "on the table."
"THAAD will contribute to a layered missile defense by significantly enhancing Alliance missile defense capabilities against North Korea missile threats," Maj. Jennifer Lovett of U.S. Forces Korea Public Affairs told CNBC.