S Korean protesters clash with police over THAAD deployment

Updated 2017-09-07 09:30:42 Xinhua

Hundreds of South Korean residents and peace activists clashed with police Wednesday beside the entrance to the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) site at Soseong-ri village as Seoul tried to deploy additional THAAD elements.

About 8,000 policemen were reportedly mobilized to help the USFK troops transport the remaining THAAD elements to the site.

South Korea's defense ministry said Wednesday that the remaining elements of the THAAD missile interception system would be deployed to the site in southeast of the country on Thursday.

The ministry said in a statement that the remaining THAAD launchers would be installed together with construction equipment and materials of the U.S. side within Thursday.

On April 26, two mobile launchers and other THAAD elements were transported in the middle of night to a former course at Soseong-ri village in Seongju county, North Gyeongsang province.

A THAAD battery, which Seoul and Washington agreed in July last year to deploy, is composed of six launchers, 48 interceptors, the AN/TPY-2 radar and the fire and control unit.

In addition to the four remaining launchers, the power-supplying equipment and an equipment linking the fire and control unit to the radar would reportedly be delivered to the site early on Thursday.

Residents and peace activists, who have blocked the entrance to the former golf course, said the transportation would be conducted at about 2 a.m. local time (1700 GMT Wednesday), citing unidentified sources from the military, the police and the local media.

If those equipment and launchers are transported to the site, the THAAD battery, which would be operated by the US Forces Korea (USFK), would get into a full operation.

The defense ministry said the further deployment was aimed to tackle the growing nuclear and missile threats from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

On Sunday, the DPRK detonated what it claimed was a hydrogen bomb warhead that can be loaded onto a ballistic missile with intercontinental capability.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in ordered the temporary installation of four more THAAD launchers to the site, after Pyongyang's test in late July of what it called an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), dubbed by the DPRK as Hwasong-14.

The DPRK's ICBM, however, is not a direct threat to South Korea as an ICBM refers to a ballistic missile with a range of at least 5,500 km.

The THAAD battery in South Korea cannot protect from the DPRK's missile attacks as DPRK missiles and artillery shells targeting South Korea fly at an altitude of less than 40 km. THAAD is designed to intercept incoming missiles at an altitude of 40-150 km.

Neighboring countries, including China and Russia, have strongly opposed the THAADdeployment in South Korea as its X-band radar can peer deep into their territories, breaking regional strategic balance and damaging security interests of the two countries.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang reiterated Wednesday that China demanded an immediate stop to deployment of the THAAD in South Korea.

Earlier this week, South Korea's environment ministry granted a "conditional" green light to a small-scale assessment of environmental impact on the THAAD deployment site, opening the way to deploy the remaining elements of the U.S. missile shield.

A "general" green audit would be conducted on about 700,000 square meters of land inside the former golf course, which the South Korean military had originally planned to offer to the USFK for the THAAD operation.

The land provision was divided into two phases, and less than 330,000 square meters of land was first provided to avoid the general green audit.

Anti-THAAD protesters have demanded a "strategic" green audit, which requires the removal of the THAAD battery and the feasibility study on the deployment before launching the general environmental evaluation.

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