THAAD site to get full en­vi­ron­ment im­pact as­sess­ment

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Kim Se-jeong skim@ktimes.com

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

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