S Korean residents stage candlelit rally to shout for 'Stop THAAD'

Updated 2017-03-05 12:52:20 Xinhua

Residents living in southeast South Korea, where the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system is set to be deployed, gathered again on Saturday night to continue their fight against the deployment with candles in their hand.

Locals in the Seongju county, North Gyeongsang province held the 235th candlelit rally, which has lasted every night since Seoul and Washington announced the abrupt decision to install one THAAD battery by the end of this year.

The protest rally was carried out at a parking lot facing the county office, which the residents managed to earn from the local government after tussles with county officials. At the very beginning of the rally, they rallied inside the office building.

Around 150 South Koreans chanted for "Stop THAAD and Bring Peace" by immediately cancelling the closed-door decision to deploy the U.S. missile defense system in their hometown that has a population of about 45,000.

Lee Jae-dong, vice chief of the association to oppose the THAAD, composed of Seongju residents, said at the rally that senior South Korean government officials, whom he called as criminals, hurriedly sought to install THAAD in their homeland to help protect the United States and Japan.

He said the THAAD in South Korea is aimed at defending the U.S. and Japan, not his country, from missile threats from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and also at containing China.

The vice chief strongly raised questions that there would be no reason for South Korea to deploy the U.S. missile defense system that will place his country in danger and only help protect the U.S. and Japan.

THAAD has a very limited capability to intercept DPRK missiles targeting South Korea as it is designed to shoot down incoming missiles at an altitude of 40-150 km. DPRK missiles travel at an altitude of less than 40 km when attacking its southern neighbor.

THAAD's X-band radar can peer deep into territories of China and Russia, causing strong backlashes from the two countries. The U.S. missile shield breaks strategic balance and damages the security interests of the two nations.

Most of the residents have a deep understanding of what the THAAD is and how it operates. One of the residents explained to the participants in the candlelit rally about the definition of THAAD and its capability.

Park Soo-kyu, an official with the protest rally organizer, told Xinhua that the Park Geun-hye government's hurried push for THAAD stemmed mainly from political difficulties, which were caused by a corruption scandal embroiling President Park.

Park was impeached by the parliament on Dec. 9 over her alleged involvement in a corruption scandal, in which Park's longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil is alleged to have intervened in state affairs behind the scenes.

Some opposition lawmakers raised suspicion that Choi may have affected the abrupt THAAD deployment decision, citing circumstantial evidences such as the undated meeting between Choi or Choi's ex-husband and the chief of Lockheed Martin, the THAAD manufacturer.

THAAD in South Korea indicates the country becoming a part of the global missile defense (MD) network of the U.S. together with Japan in the region. The global MD apparently aims to contain China and Russia by sharing the military intelligence gathered from the THAAD radar in South Korea and two X-band radars already deployed in Japan.

The participants in the rally chanted for "Send THAAD to the U.S. and Bring Peace to Korean Peninsula," clamoring for a prompt withdrawal from the decision, which the residents said had been made without any explanations and any proper procedures.

The parking lot, which they dubbed "Peace Butterfly Square," was crowded with people who still hope to return to a peaceful daily life, which they had enjoyed every day before the THAAD deployment decision.

Lee Jae-dong, the vice chief of the anti-THAAD rally organizing committee, said the only thing people want here is to return to the past normalized life. He said the residents will fight until the peace-breaking weapons system is to be ousted from their hometown.

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