Deployment of four more Terminal High Altitude Area Defense launchers may begin as early as next week, local media reported Friday citing unnamed South Korean and US military sources.
According to reports, Seoul’s Ministry of National Defense and US Forces Korea are likely to transport four additional THAAD launchers, and materials required for their temporary deployment to the site in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, next week.
A THAAD launcher stationed in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province. Yonhap
The THAAD deployment was agreed during the Park Geun-hye administration. There are two launchers and a powerful radar already deployed and in operation in Seongju, but the new Moon Jae-in administration had suspended further rollout, citing the need for a thorough environmental impact survey. A typical THAAD battery consists of six launchers and a radar.
However, following North Korea’s ballistic missile in late July, President Moon Jae-in ordered concerned government bodies to begin the process of deploying four additional launchers on a temporary basis.
“The Ministry of Environment requested additional information on a number of occasions, and judging by the process that is currently in progress, (the environmental impact study) appears to be nearing the end,” an unnamed Defense Ministry official was quoted as saying by local news outlets. Once the environmental assessment is over, early results of which suggested that the launchers have no significant environmental effect, the ministry and US forces are likely to begin the deployment process.
The news comes as North Korean provocations reached a new high with the recent ballistic missile that flew over Japan’s airspace.
Minister of National Defense Song Young-moo’s letter to residents of the area asking for their understanding has also been interpreted as a sign that additional THAAD launcher deployment is imminent. Song is currently in the US where he met with US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and is reported to have discussed the possibility of stationing US tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)