THAAD site to get full environment impact assessment
The Ministry of National Defense will carry out a full-scale environmental impact assessment of the entire site of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) unit in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, the ministry said Friday.
The site covers 700,000 square meters of land donated to the government by Lotte — 328,799 square meters is already in use, housing two anti-missile launchers and a radar system.
The ministry said, however, the 328,799 square meters of land is not subject to an additional survey as it was already reviewed in a small-scale assessment.
The Ministry of Environment confirmed it received the assessment report on July 24 and is reviewing it.
Four additional launchers should arrive at the golf course-turned military site to complete the deployment. That will depend on the findings of the full-scale assessment report — but some experts point out the decision would be a political one and the full deployment will eventually take place.
The process is expected to take up to 15 months. Originally, it was expected to be completed by the end of this year.
The decision was a step back for the Ministry of National Defense, which had wanted to avoid the full-scale environmental impact assessment. Earlier, it had conducted a small-scale assessment in December on half of the land. But the ministry met an obstacle in May as new President Moon Jae-in wanted to make a full assessment of the whole area.
Moon and Cheong Wa Dae’s national security team next created a special task force to review the THAAD deployment process, inviting officials from the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Moon and his aides believe the preliminary environment assessment was essential before the deployment. They also suspected the previous government deliberately scaled down its environmental assessment.
Many view Friday’s announcement as confirmation of President Moon’s virtual support for the THAAD deployment, which has been high on the national security agenda.
The United States has pressed Moon for its swift deployment, while China has shown its opposition. China sees it as a threat to its own national security.
Since Moon’s inauguration, Beijing has expressed hope Korea will cancel the deployment, as Moon hinted his tacit opposition to THAAD.
The United States sees THAAD in South Korea as critical to its national security amid growing threats from North Korea. The North has recently made much progress in its long-range missile technologies that would enable it to strike the U.S. mainland.
Residents in Seongju who have been opposing the deployment welcomed Friday’s decision but they have yet to change their stance on the missile defense unit. The issue divided the entire country. THAAD supporters claim it is a must to defend the South from the North and the U.S. military base from the North’s missile threats. Opponents, however, claim the new government should gauge public opinion on the national security issue.
NK nuclear program will become ‘fait accompli soon’
WASHINGTON (Yonhap) — North Korea will attain a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile “pretty soon,” a senior U.S. administration official said Thursday.
The official, who is well-versed in North Korea affairs, spoke as there is growing alarm about the North’s saber-rattling.
“We’re now at a point where this is going to become a fait accompli pretty soon,” he said on condition of anonymity.
“The fact that he’s absolutely committed to the nuclear program, it’s the same as the father,” he said