United States military has begun transporting parts of the controversial Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system to a planned deployment site in South Korea, media reports say.
According to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, six trailer trucks, carrying the radar and other equipment for the THAAD missile defense battery, arrived at the deployment site, located on what had been a golf course in the southeastern region of Seongju in early hours of Wednesday.
It added that the transportation had triggered a clash between police and protesting villagers. The finalization of plans for the system’s deployment has so far sparked numerous protests within South Korea.
Seoul and Washington reached an agreement over the THAAD’s deployment in July last year, declaring that the objective is to protect South Korea against North Korea’s alleged missile threats. THAAD has been designed to intercept ballistic missiles inside or just outside the atmosphere during their final phase of flight.
Russia and China has already expressed their deep concerns in a number of occasions over the deployment of the controversial system in the Korean Peninsula, with Chinese officials arguing that the US system would interfere with their radars and could pose a threat to Chinese security.
Pyongyang, whose nuclear and missile tests have provided the pretext for the THAAD’s deployment, has expressed its strong opposition to the move, saying the US advanced missile system in the South would destabilize the region’s security by upsetting the military status quo.
North Korea, already under a raft of sanctions for its missile and nuclear programs, also says it is developing arms as deterrence against the US. It says it will not abandon the missile and nuclear programs unless the US ends its hostility toward Pyongyang.
The reclusive country has so far conducted five confirmed nuclear tests and numerous missile test-launches, and it is believed to be preparing for a sixth nuclear weapons test. While Pyongyang has not fired missiles against other countries, it has vowed strong action — including missile attacks against South Korea — if it is invaded by the South and the US.
On Tuesday, Yonhap, citing the South’s Defense Acquisition Program Agency (DAPA), reported that Seoul was planning to purchase a pair of advanced early warning radars on possible incoming ballistic missiles as the tension is rising in the peninsula between Pyongyang and Washington, and the two sides have been issuing increasingly gruff threats against one another in recent weeks.
The South’s army has already two Israeli-made Green Pine land-based radars in operation, but it is striving to secure radars with the maximum range of more than 800 kilometers to boost its detecting of ballistic missiles fired by Pyongyang. Seoul is in the process of making the so-called Korea Air and Missile Defense system.