South Korea picks new site for THAAD missile installment
Seoul has announced a new location for the installment of a controversial United States missile system in South Korea, amid local and international opposition to the deployment.
The South Korean Defense Ministry said on Friday that the newly commissioned site for the US Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system would be 18 kilometers to the north of an existing missile base in the rural county of Seongju, 275 kilometers southeast of the capital, Seoul.
The announcement came after strong opposition and vocal protests from local residents at the site previously assigned for the missiles.
The opponents of the deployment of the US missile system in South Korea say its powerful radar would pose health and environmental hazards to local residents.
The new deployment site will be a golf course in Gyeongsangbuk-do Province. The course is reportedly within a three-kilometer radius of the old section of Gimcheon City.
The previous location was in Seongju County, where 15,000 people and three schools were located within 1.5 kilometers of the deployment site.
A Buddhist site is, however, located near the new planned location.
Lawmakers and politicians opposed to the deployment say it would also provoke arch-rival North Korea and create a new priority target for Pyongyang in case of a future escalation in tensions.
China, North Korea’s main ally, is strongly opposed to the deployment plan, as well.
Seoul and Washington claim the THAAD missile system is intended to counter threats posed by North Korea following its repeated missile and nuclear tests. Pyongyang conducted a fifth nuclear explosion recently.
China says issues with North Korea should be resolved through dialog, not escalatory military countermeasures such as the deployment of the THAAD.
North Korea, too, has condemned plans for the installment of the system in the South.
Despite such opposition, however, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye has announced that the system is crucial to the country’s national defense and will go ahead as planned.
The US Defense Department has said the system would be stationed “as soon as feasible.”