Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn said Wednesday that an advanced U.S. anti-missile system has to be deployed to South Korea as soon as possible to counter North Korea's growing nuclear and missile threats.
Hwang made the remarks amid calls from opposition parties to delay the planned deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to the Korean Peninsula given the lack of public consensus and China's vehement opposition to it.
Seoul hopes to install a THAAD battery in the southern county of Seongju, 296 kilometers southeast of Seoul, by May next year.
"For security, (we) have to deploy (THAAD)," he said during a parliamentary interpellation session. "As we cannot wait even for a moment to cope with North Korea's nuclear provocations, we have to do what we can do first."
Hwang, then, made an appeal for parliamentary support for the
deployment, underscoring that the North's nuclear provocations this
year were "unprecedented." The communist state carried out two
nuclear tests in January and September, raising concerns it is
making headway towards achieving nuclear-power status.
Pointing to China's objections, Hwang said, "China's thoughts
will not change even if (Seoul) postpones the deployment by two to
China has strenuously opposed the deployment of the missile
defense asset, saying its long-range radar system could target it
and undermine its security interests. In apparent retaliation
against the deployment plan, Beijing is suspected of carrying out
tax probes and sanitary checks on South Korean businesses operating
in the country.
"Chinese authorities have never publicly warned of any
retaliation with regards to the THAAD issue, but they have taken a
set of steps that seem to be apparent responses (to the deployment
plan)," he said. "We are making efforts to cope with such measures."
During the same session, Hwang dismissed claims of his
complicity in the alleged corruption scandal involving President
Park Geun-hye and her longtime friend, though he acknowledged his
responsibility in failing to properly advise her.
"As you know the meaning of an accomplice, it is wrong (to
refer to me as an accomplice)," Hwang said. "Being an accomplice
and being responsible (for preventing the scandal) are different
matters ... I think it is regrettable that we fail to take all
measures to prevent all corruption," he added.
Hwang's remarks came after Rep. Noh Woong-rae of the main
opposition Democratic Party asked for his thoughts about street
protesters that have accused him of being an accomplice in the scandal.
The acting president also touched on the need to update the
decades-old Constitution. The issue of a constitutional amendment
has kept resurfacing as many politicians believe the current state
of affairs is due to too much power being centered on one person.
"With public consensus, we, along with citizens, need to take
steps towards the revision, though it is difficult to talk about
the timing of the amendment at this stage," he said.
Meanwhile, President Park's attorneys dismissed the allegations
that Park had telephoned Choi Kyung-hee, the former head of Ewha
Womans University, to lobby her to help Chung Yoo-ra, the daughter
of her friend Choi Soon-sil at the center of the corruption
scandal, get admitted to the university.
"It is totally untrue," the attorneys said in a text message
sent to reporters after Rep. Noh made the allegations during the
parliamentary session. "The president has never called former Ewha
President Choi, nor does she know anything about Chung's admission
into the school," they said. (Yonhap)