Twenty-two vehicles carrying construction materials, equipment and workers entered the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense base in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, from around 11:20 a.m. as part of a project to build facilities for troops manning the unit.
Their entrance came about three hours after riot police began removing about 200 residents and activists occupying the Jinbat bridge in a sit-in aimed at preventing the vehicles' passage. About 3,000 riot police were mobilized to break up the protest.
|Riot police try to break up a sit-in by anti-THAAD protesters in Seongju, some 215 km southeast of Seoul, on April 23. (Yonhap)|
Scuffles and shoving matches broke out as police moved in. Protesters resisted by inserting their arms into plastic pipes in an attempt to tie themselves together to make it difficult for police to carry them away. They also chanted slogans, such as "Out with violent police."
About 10 people were injured during the clash, with five or six of them taken to a hospital.
"It is the defense ministry that deteriorated the situation like this," Kang Hyun-woo, a leader of the protesters, said. "Responsibility for all forthcoming consequences rests with the defense ministry that pushed unreasonably ahead with the THAAD base construction."
Police placed air mattresses under the bridge in case of a fall during the clash.
In Seoul, the defense ministry said it's starting to transport construction materials, equipment and personnel into the US missile defense base, despite protests by local residents and activists.
It cited the urgency of building amenities and other facilities to improve the living conditions of more than 400 South Korean and US troops stationed at the THAAD base in Seongju.
"We have decided to begin the transport of personnel, materials and equipment necessary for construction today in cooperation with police," the Ministry of National Defense said in a press release.(Yonhap)