S Korea needs time to investigate THAAD deployment process, says lawmaker

Updated 2017-07-04 16:29:06 Xinhua

A South Korean lawmaker of one of the opposition parties said that the new government under President Moon Jae-in would need time to thoroughly investigate into any possible illegalities in the process of deploying the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile interception system.

"I'll tell you this from the perspective of an opposition lawmaker. I oppose THAAD (in South Korea). I have claimed the repealing of the THAAD deployment (decision)," Kim Jong Dae, a member of the minor progressive Justice Party, said in an interview with Xinhua Monday.

Despite his clear opposition to THAAD in South Korea, Kim said a top priority must be placed first on coming to the bedrock of the deployment decision as it was decided upon by a small group of top-level military officers, which he estimated included Kim Kwan-jin, former top security advisor to impeached President Park Geun-hye.

Some of defense ministry officials told the lawmaker that the THAAD deployment decision was led by a clandestine group of elite commanders, called poisonous snake, who studied in the military academy in Germany.

South Korea's military allows one or two excellent students of its military academy per year to study abroad. After graduation, those who studied in Germany usually get a high-level post of the military.

The lawmaker said how to deal with the THAAD issue could be considered after finishing a thorough investigation into the possible procedural illegalities.

Kim said he encouraged the newly appointed vice defense minister, Suh Choo-suk, to visit the Soseong-ri village in Seongju county, North Gyeongsang province, where a part of the THAAD battery was installed.

On June 27, Suh met with residents at the village, making his sincere apology to them for the previous government's unilateral push for the U.S. missile shield installation. Suh promised to continue communications and consultations with the residents for any further deployment procedure.

"Communications (with residents) must become a top priority. Even though the THAAD is a very significant security issue, THAAD cannot be placed above people," said Kim who had long been a military commentator since he served as an aide on military affairs to late President Roh Moon-hyun.

Kim, who became the first-term legislator in 2016 of the Justice Party, has long been an anti-THAAD protester and helped Seongju residents fight against the U.S. missile defense system.

Seoul and Washington announced an abrupt decision in July last year to deploy one THAAD battery in southeast South Korea. The deployment site was altered in September of the year into a golf course in the Soseong-ri village.

Residents in Seongju county and Gimcheon city, which borders the county and faces the THAAD's super microwave-emitting X-band radar, have held a candlelit rally every night since the deployment decision was announced.

In defiance of the protest rallies to demand the reversal of the decision, two mobile launchers of the U.S. weapons system were delivered in the middle of night to the golf course on April 26, around two weeks before the presidential by-election that was caused by the impeachment of Moon's predecessor.

A THAAD battery is composed of six mobile launchers, 48 interceptors, the AN/TPY-2 radar and the fire and control unit. Four more launchers were transported to a U.S. military base near the golf course, but it was not reported to President Moon who took office on May 10.

"I cannot help getting suspicious of any other political purpose behind the hurried push for the THAAD deployment as the installation process did not consider any military rationality," said Kim.

According to the Justice Party lawmaker, the U.S. strategic asset worth about 1 billion U.S. dollars has been operated non-strategically as the THAAD's mobile launchers in the golf course were "on display like a chimpanzee in a zoo" without any camouflage net or cover and concealment.

It mainly stemmed from South Korea's environment law, under which any construction of a military base to dig into the earth more than 0.5 meters below is not allowed without the environmental impact assessment.

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