North Korean state media said leader Kim Jong-un had personally supervised Monday’s missile launches by an army unit that is positioned to strike US bases in Japan, Reuters reported.
The move to begin installing the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system (Thaad) came a day after North Korea launched four ballistic missiles.
The move by the US military is likely to deepen the brewing conflict between South Korea and China, which says the THAAD deployment destroys the regional security balance.
US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussed the launches by North Korea during a phone call on Tuesday.
Trump also spoke to South Korea’s Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn to discuss the North’s missile launches, Hwang’s office said.
North Korea issued a statement on state news agency KCNA after the missile launches.
“In the hearts of artillerymen ... there was burning desire to mercilessly retaliate against the warmongers going ahead with their joint war exercises,” KCNA reported.
North Korea’s missile launches coincided with massive joint military drills being carried out by the US and South Korea on the Korean Peninsula. The wargames have been condemned by Pyongyang as “dangerous nuclear war drills against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea at its doorstep.”
The US has military forces in South Korea – a long-time adversary of the North – and is deploying an advanced missile system there. The US also occasionally deploys nuclear-powered warships and aircraft capable of carrying atomic weapons in the region.