Ex­tra THAAD launch­ers fuel con­tro­versy

The Korea Times - - NATIONAL - By Kim Hyo-jin hy­o­jinkim@ktimes.com

Korea’s po­lit­i­cal cir­cle is em­broiled in fresh con­tro­versy af­ter Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in’s de­ci­sion to pro­ceed with the stalled de­ploy­ment of the U.S. anti-mis­sile shield here.

At a Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil meet­ing hur­riedly con­vened at 1 a.m. Satur­day af­ter Py­ongyang’s late-night bal­lis­tic mis­sile launch on Fri­day, Moon or­dered his aides to con­sult with the U.S. over the tem­po­rary de­ploy­ment of four ad­di­tional launch­ers of the Ter­mi­nal High Al­ti­tude Area De­fense (THAAD) bat­tery.

The or­der comes a day af­ter the govern­ment said it would con­duct a full-scale en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment of the de­ploy­ment site in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Prov­ince, be­fore in­stalling the four launch­ers.

“The govern­ment will de­ploy them tem­po­rar­ily, and at the same time, con­tinue the on­go­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment as a sep­a­rate pro­ce­dure,” a Cheong Wa Dae of­fi­cial ex­plained.

He said a fi­nal de­ci­sion on full de­ploy­ment would de­pend on the as­sess­ment, which is ex­pected to take more than a year.

The U.S. THAAD bat­tery con­sists of six in­ter­cep­tor mis­sile launch­ers. Only two of the six were in­stalled and op­er­a­tional, with the ad­di­tional four hav­ing been kept at a U.S. mil­i­tary base here.

The rul­ing Demo­cratic Party of Korea (DPK) sup­ported Moon’s de­ci­sion, call­ing the plan the best pos­si­ble so­lu­tion con­sid­er­ing re­la­tion­ships with the U.S. and China.

Bei­jing has op­posed the de­ploy­ment, which it claims will be used to spy on its mil­i­tary ac­tiv­i­ties, tak­ing eco­nomic re­tal­i­a­tion against Korean busi­nesses.

“It is a ra­tio­nal mea­sure that would strengthen co­or­di­na­tion with the U.S. and en­able the govern­ment to seek un­der­stand­ing from China,” DPK spokes­woman Rep. Back Hye-ryun said.

Woo Won-shik, the party’s floor leader, stressed the in­evitabil­ity of Moon’s de­ci­sion, say­ing, “It is an un­der­stand­able or­der be­cause the se­cu­rity of the Korean Penin­sula and North­east Asia is now at risk fol­low­ing the North’s mis­sile launch.”

The rul­ing party has re­mained am­bigu­ous about whether the coun­try needs to op­er­ate the U.S. anti-mis­sile sys­tem here, mind­ful of China’s strong op­po­si­tion.

But Woo added that a fi­nal de­ci­sion about the de­ploy­ment should be con­sid­ered care­fully af­ter the en­vi­ron­men­tal sur­vey, keep­ing in tune with Cheong Wa Dae.

But op­po­si­tion par­ties de­nounced Moon’s or­der, say­ing the govern­ment had only made a stop­gap mea­sure and failed to re­spond prop­erly to the grow­ing se­cu­rity threat.

Lib­erty Korea Party spokes­woman Jun Hee-kyung called it a mere “trick” to avoid pub­lic op­po­si­tion and claimed the govern­ment should with­draw the en­vi­ron­men­tal study and push for “im­me­di­ate and com­plete” de­ploy­ment of the THAAD sys­tem.

Peo­ple’ Party spokesman Son Kum-ju urged the govern­ment to take a con­sis­tent and clear po­si­tion on the anti-mis­sile unit. Party leader Park Joo-sun even called on Moon to re­con­sider his con­cil­ia­tory ap­proach to the North, say­ing his peace over­ture pre­sented in his Ber­lin speech was only an “il­lu­sion.”

“It can’t make any progress if Moon keeps hold­ing onto both op­tions of seek­ing di­a­logue and im­pos­ing sanc­tions,” he said.

“It is likely to fail as there is a grave change in cir­cum­stances (with North Korea’s im­proved mis­sile tech­nol­ogy).”

Park said the govern­ment should pri­or­i­tize strength­en­ing the al­liance with the U.S. when deal­ing with the North Korea is­sue.

“The firm Korea-U.S. al­liance should be the pil­lar when seek­ing peace on the penin­sula and eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion with the North,” he said. “It is not easy to win U.S. trust with the govern­ment’s flip-flop­ping at­ti­tude on the THAAD is­sue.”

Moon’s de­ci­sion also brought more protests from China.

China ex­pressed “se­ri­ous con­cerns” over the de­ploy­ment in a state­ment is­sued by Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry spokesman Geng Shuang.

“China’s po­si­tion on the THAAD is­sue is clear and con­sis­tent and is sub­ject to no change,” the state­ment said, adding that THAAD de­ploy­ment would not re­solve South Korea’s se­cu­rity con­cerns but would make the sit­u­a­tion more com­plex.

“We strongly urge both South Korea and the U.S. to ac­knowl­edge China’s con­cerns, stop the de­ploy­ment process and with­draw the sys­tem.”


Seongju County res­i­dents in North Gyeongsang Prov­ince chant slo­gans, Sun­day, in protest of Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in’s or­der to con­sult with the U.S. over the tem­po­rary de­ploy­ment of four more launch­ers of a Ter­mi­nal High Al­ti­tude Area De­fense (THAAD) bat­tery in ad­di­tion to the cur­rently op­er­at­ing two, fol­low­ing North Korea’s bal­lis­tic mis­sile launch late Fri­day night.

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