S.Korea to halt additional THAAD deployment until green audit ends
People's Daily Online
(Xinhua) 16:43, June 07, 2017
SEOUL, June 7 (Xinhua) -- South Korea's presidential Blue House said Wednesday that the country would suspend an additional deployment of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system until a green audit ends in the future.
A senior Blue House official, who declined to be identified, told reporters in the office that additional deployment would be decided upon only after completing the environmental evaluation, though the already installed THAAD elements would inevitably remain.
Around two weeks before the country's presidential by-election on May 9, part of the THAAD elements, including radar and two mobile launchers, were transported in the middle of night to a golf course at Soseong-ri village in Seongju county, North Gyeongsang province.
Local media speculations said the hurried installation, even before finishing the green audit, was apparently aimed at politicizing security issues in the sensitive election period that tended to benefit conservative candidates.
Four more THAAD launchers were delivered to an unidentified U.S. military base in South Korea, but the delivery was not reported to President Moon Jae-in who took office on May 10.
One THAAD battery is composed of six mobile launchers, 48 interceptors, the AN/TPY-2 radar and the fire and control unit.
The preliminary investigation results by the Blue House found that a senior Defense Ministry official instructed the "intentional" omission of the four more launchers installation from the documents submitted to the Blue House.
Moon ordered a further investigation into the unreported deployment of four mobile launchers, while instructing the massive assessment of environment effect on people living near the installation site.
The unnamed Blue House official told reporters that two mobile launchers and the X-band radar, which had been already installed, would remain in the golf course.
The official, however, said that advancing the THAAD deployment would not be urgent enough to omit the green audit, indicating the suspension of the further installation until the audit ends.
An unnamed Defense Ministry official was quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying Wednesday that though the massive assessment of environmental effect would be conducted, the expected evaluation period of about a year would be shortened significantly.
Yonhap reported that the comments indicated the completion of the evaluation by the end of this year.
However, the official said the massive assessment would require the hearings for residents living near the THAAD installation site, which would take several months.
Moon on Monday ordered a probe into who tried to avoid the green audit of the THAAD deployment site.
South Koreans have held candlelit rallies to protest against THAAD since the deployment decision was made last July.
Moon instructed officials to carry out the legitimate assessment of environmental effect, saying priority should be placed on the procedural legitimacy for the THAAD deployment.
According to the presidential Blue House, its preliminary investigation results showed the defense ministry offered 328,799 square meters of the golf course to the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) in the first stage of land provision.
The total land of the golf course is about 700,000 square meters. The remaining land was scheduled to be given to the USFK in the second stage after completing the green audit.
It was aimed to avoid the massive environmental evaluation. By domestic law, the provision of less than 330,000 square meters does not require the massive green audit, shortening the assessment period.
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