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The United States has begun the process of deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, an advanced missile defense system, to South Korea. The first elements of the missile defense system, including two launchers, arrived recently at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul, as reported by yonhapnews, citing a military official.
“The deployment could be completed within one or two months and it can be operational as early as April,” a Seoul military official said. The system is purely defensive and poses no threat to other countries in the region, the report states.
A C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft has delivered the first elements of the THAAD system to the southeastern rural county of Seongju, 296 kilometers south of Seoul, the site for the battery, according to Korea’s defense ministry spokesman, who didn’t provide a schedule for the transfer. The remaining equipment is expected to be gradually delivered here, he said without elaborating.
The beginning of the deployment process has caused a row between South Korean politicians. While the ruling Liberty Korea Party claimed South Korea should promote the deployment regardless of threats from China, opposition members insisted the task should be handed over to the next administration.
Beijing has been rolling out economic retaliation against South Korea, amid concerns the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system will have an adverse impact on its military strategy.
“It is ironic that China is overacting towards the THAAD battery which came as a self-defense measure,” the Liberty Korea Party said in a statement, claiming China should be responsible for not faithfully following the U.N. sanction against North Korea on its nuke and missile provocations.
“South Korea plans to deploy the THAAD battery because of the North Korean nukes and missiles,” the party said, adding the main opposition Democratic Party should come up with a clear stance on the system.
The Democratic Party, on the other hand, said South Korea should be more careful about the deployment. It also claimed the plan should first win approval from the National Assembly. “It is inappropriate for a big country like China to implement excessive regulations and retaliations to the private sector,” the Democratic Party said. “But the deployment should be reviewed comprehensively by the new government.”