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THAAD test operation to be completed before election

Posted April. 27, 2017 07:24,   

Updated April. 27, 2017 07:31

The U.S. Forces stationed in Korea deployed part of core equipment for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system in a surprise move on Wednesday. The measure has been taken six days after South Korea and the U.S. completed the process for Seoul to provide the land for THAAD on April 20.

The South Korean and U.S. military authorities will likely complete test operation of the missile defense system before the May 9 presidential election to be prepared to cope with North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.

The U.S. Forces Korea relocated key equipment for THAAD including two mobile launchers, a surveillance radar (AN/TPY-2), and a combat control center, which had been stored in Busan and its Chilgok and Waegwan logistics base in North Gyeongsang Province, to the golf course site in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province by mobilizing over 20 military trucks and semi-trucks from Tuesday midnight to 6:50 a.m. on Wednesday. The U.S. military also reportedly deployed its Patriot (PAC-3) interceptor missiles that are designed to protect THAAD from air and missile attacks by the enemy force. The South Korean military said the THAAD system will be operated by the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade under the U.S. 8th Army stationed in South Korea.

The police mobilized more than 8,000 troops and completely sealed off regional roads including the entrance road to the Seongju Country Club, and tightly escorted the procession of U.S. military vehicles carrying the THAAD equipment. In the process, some local residents threw water bottles to the procession of THAAD equipment transporters, and occupied a road with vehicles to express their objection to THAAD deployment before clashing with police forces, which led to more than 10 people injured and taken to hospital.

“(The deployment of THAAD equipment) is a measure to secure preemptively the capability to conduct operation by deploying the available THAAD air defense system to the site provided by the South in the wake of the North’s advancement of nuclear and missile capabilities,” said a South Korean military source. The source said the South Korea and U.S. militaries will deploy some of the THAAD capabilities at Seongju Country Club and operate there, but nonetheless will take follow-up procedures including environmental impact assessment and construction of the THAAD base.

In its position statement released on the day, the U.S. Defense Department also said, “The deployment of THAAD in South Korea is a key measure to defend against North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles,” adding, “To complete the deployment of THAAD as soon as possible, we are closely cooperating with the Republic of Korea.” The South Korea and U.S. military authorities plan to conduct test operation of the THAAD system and inspect its initial operational readiness before the presidential election. Afterwards, it will likely take two to three months after the election to deploy equipment for one battery unit of the THAAD system and complete defense readiness against the North’s threats following the completion of the base’s construction.

Presidential candidates showed mixed responses to THAAD deployment. “It is not a matter that the government can afford to push ahead now just ahead of the presidential election,” said Minjoo Party candidate Moon Jae-in, in expressing objection. Liberty Korea Party candidate Hong Joon-pyo and Bareun Party candidate Yoo Seung-min welcomed the deployment. “It is problematic that the necessary steps including environmental impact assessment are being skipped,” People’s Party candidate Ahn Cheol-soo said.