"The THAAD deployment site is a former golf course, which will require some construction modifications to better accommodate the ROK-US troops based there," the official told Yonhap News Agency, requesting anonymity. "The morale and welfare of our soldiers is our top priority." The ROK is the acronym for South Korea's official name, the Republic of Korea.
His comments came as South Korea's authorities began operations to bring related materials, equipment and personnel into the compound in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province. It's located some 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul.
Police clashed with local residents and activists, trying to break up their sit-ins and clear the way in front of the gate of the base.
The Ministry of National Defense said it's urgent to repair the leaky roofs of barracks, build sewage treatment facilities and other amenities for the more than 400 soldiers there, including around 300 South Korean service members.
It added it can't delay construction works any more to improve the living conditions of the troops.
The soldiers have been rotated off the site, mostly to temporary facilities, on a regular basis. For lunch, they eat individual field rations, known as MREs (meals, ready-to-eat).
The USFK installed six THAAD launchers at the site last year, along with a powerful X-band radar station and a fire control and communications unit, amid North Korea's continued nuclear activity and various missile launches.
Residents near the base in the rural area, supported by anti-war activists, have strongly opposed the deployment of the advanced weapons. They are concerned that their village may become a main target of the North's potential attacks and possible damage from the cutting-edge THAAD radar system, as well as environmental pollution.
The USFK official stressed that the THAAD deployment site, chosen by the South Korean government, "maximizes military effectiveness and respects the residents' health and environment."
He added, "Furthermore, a strict safety distance standard is applied for the radar operation and fencing ensures the safety of citizens in the area."(Yonhap)