SEOUL, July 11 (UPI) -- North Korea vowed to "physically" respond to the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile defense system in South Korea, a first remark from Pyongyang regarding THAAD since a decision was announced on Friday.
"We once again warn the enemies that it is the steadfast will of the Korean People's Army to make merciless retaliatory strikes to reduce South Korea to a sea of flames and debris once an order is issued," read the statement from Pyongyang's general staff department's military artillery bureau.
North Korea said military strikes would be delivered from the moment THAAD is placed in the South.
The bureau is in charge of operating the 300-mm multiple rocket launcher and other forms of artillery, South Korean television network MBC reported.
North Korea also said the United States is trying to gain "military hegemony" over the countries of Northeast Asia in a statement that agreed with Russia and China's critical view of THAAD deployment in the South.
Seoul's defense ministry spokesman Moon Sang-kyun warned the North on Monday.
"If North Korea continues to engage in reckless actions [the South Korea] military will respond powerful and resolutely," Moon said.
Adm. Jung Ho-sub, the South Korean chief of naval operations, has ordered bases near a disputed maritime border with the North to stay ready for potential North Korean provocations.
The decision to deploy THAAD in South Korea is also igniting opposition in the country.
On Monday civic groups including the South Korean Council for the Implementation of the June 15 Joint Declaration asked for the immediate revocation of the decision to deploy THAAD.
The groups cited studies indicating THAAD is inadequate in defending against North Korea's short-range missiles, and said the decision will result in increasing tensions on the peninsula, rather than contribute to denuclearization.
Seoul officials have defended the decision and Defense Minister Han Min-koo has said THAAD is capable of intercepting North Korean weapons, including its submarine-launched ballistic missiles.