South Korea’s defence ministry on Wednesday said it will deploy THAAD — the US missile defence system — to its southeastern region despite continued opposition from neighbouring countries.
One Terminal High Altitude Area Defence battery will be deployed in the Seongju county in North Gyeongsang province, where South Korean Air Force’s Hawk surface-to-air missile battery is located.
“The county was proposed as the best site to maximise military effectiveness and secure safety of residents in the region, which was approved by defence ministers of South Korea and the US,” Yoo Jeh-seung, Deputy Defence Minister for policy, said.
After Friday’s decision to deploy US interceptors on the South Korean soil, the deployment site was announced earlier than expected amid mounting opposition and controversies at home and abroad.
On Friday, officials said the site would be announced within weeks, but nationwide protests against the THAAD deployment had spread especially in candidate sites, prompting the country to announce it in just five days after the decision.
The two countries aim to deploy the US missile defence system in the site by the end of 2017.
China and Russia have expressed strong opposition to the THAAD deployment as its X-band radar can spot Chinese and Russian territories far beyond North Korea.
The THAAD battery will be operated by the US Forces Korea and the radar operation will not be made transparent.
“Even if Seoul and Washington try to politically promise not to keep watch on Chinese and Russian territories, such pledge has no meaning in technical terms,” Xinhua news agency quoted Cheong Wooksik, Director of Peace Network — a local civic group as saying.
About 5,000 residents in the Seongju county rallied earlier in the day near the site, with some writing in blood to protest against the deployment, according to the media reports.
Some of the residents, including the county head, rode buses bound for the defence ministry’s headquarters in Seoul to express opposition to the THAAD deployment.