Protesters shout slogans during a rally near the golf course where the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system will be deployed in Seongju, South Korea, March 15, 2017. About 200 local residents attended the rally on Wednesday to protest against the deployment of THAAD system. (Xinhua/Liu Yun)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday ordered a thorough investigation into the unauthorized delivery of four more mobile launchers of the U.S. missile shield to the country.
Yoon Young-chan, chief presidential press secretary, told a press briefing that Moon said it was "very shocking" after he was briefed on the unauthorized transportation.
Top presidential security advisor Chung Eui-yong reported to Moon that four more THAAD mobile launchers were secretly transported to South Korea in addition to two launchers already installed here.
Moon ordered the security advisor and the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs to thoroughly look into the secret delivery.
The security advisor is in charge of defense, security and foreign affairs. The civil affairs secretary is tasked with overseeing prosecutors, police and the intelligence agency.
About two weeks before the May 9 presidential by-election, two mobile launchers and radar for the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile interception system were transported in the middle of night to a golf course at Soseong-ri village in Seongju county, North Gyeongsang province.
THAAD is composed of six mobile launchers, 48 interceptors, the AN/TPY-2 radar and the fire and control unit.
The clandestine transportation raised speculation that it was aimed to politicize security issues during the election campaign period, which tended to benefit conservative candidates in the past elections.
Earlier in the day, President Moon gave a phone call to Defense Minister Han Min-koo, who was appointed by the ousted president Park Geun-hye, to verify the secret delivery in person, according to the presidential Blue House.
Defense ministry spokesman Moon Sang-kyun told a regular press briefing earlier in the day that the status quo had been maintained regarding the THAAD battery deployment.
The state affairs planning advisory committee, which served as an actual transition committee for President Moon, held a reporting session with the defense ministry last Thursday.
During the session, the defense ministry did not report on the four launchers transportation behind the doors, the presidential press secretary said.
President Moon ordered the probe into how the launchers were delivered, who made the decision, why it was not made public and why it was not reported to the new government.
He also ordered the investigation into whether the secret transportation was intended to avoid an environmental assessment on the THAAD deployment.
By local law, no construction is allowed for a military base before the completion of the evaluation on whether it would have any environmental impact on people living around the base.
Paper on the environmental assessment has yet to be submitted by the defense ministry.