North Korea has slammed the clandestine delivery of four extra launchers of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system to South Korea in May.
On Saturday, the spokesman for the Pan-Korean Emergency Measure Committee for Opposing Nuclear War Drills against DPRK [the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] said that the move aimed to “pacify the angry South Korean public remaining strongly averse to the deployment of THAAD, evade rebukes of neighboring countries, and curry favor with the US administration to prolong their remaining days.”
“It is another heavy crime and unpardonable pro-US act of treachery,” the spokesman added.
On Wednesday, the office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in announced that Seoul had suspended any further deployment of the controversial US missile system until an environmental impact assessment is completed.
The office also said that the environmental impact assessment could take a year to complete.
The statement, however, noted that Seoul saw “no need to withdraw” the two launchers that have already been deployed.
South Korea decided to host the missile system last year under ousted president Park Geun-hye to deter any potential threats from North Korea. The first pieces of the missile system started arriving at the Osan Air Base in South Korea in March with the approval of Seoul’s then-caretaker administration.
The new president ordered a “proper” investigation into the potential environmental impact of the missile system on Monday.
A battery of the THAAD is capable of firing up to 48 interceptor missiles and consists of six truck-mounted launchers, fire control and communication equipment as well as a powerful X-band radar.
Moon earlier ordered an investigation into an unauthorized deployment of four launchers that have recently arrived in the South and are being stored at a US army base in the country. According to Moon’s office, top military officials had deliberately withheld information from the president. Moon suspended Deputy Minister for Defense Policy Wee Seung Ho on Monday over the matter.
The Defense Ministry cited a confidentiality deal with the US military as the reason to withhold the information from South Korea’s new commander-in-chief, who seems not to be in agreement with Washington over the deployment. But it was not clear why the country’s highest authority could be kept in the dark by lower-ranking officials based on a deal with a foreign country.
The US opposes North Korea’s missile and military nuclear activities, which Pyongyang says act as deterrence against a potential invasion by its adversaries.
China, which has long opposed the deployment of the missile system so close to its borders, has called on Washington and Seoul to remove the system. But Beijing has also expressed concern about the North Korean’s nuclear activities and has banned imports of North Korean coal over the issue.
China has, however, repeatedly promoted dialog to resolve the issue and urged all sides to exercise restraint.